Sometimes life has a bad habit of getting in the way. In a blink of an eye, six months has passed and you’re still reeling from it. Six months got away from me. Time has a way of slipping through your fingers, especially when you’re having trouble grasping onto all the changes happening around you. While you adapt and overcome, some things happen to slip through the cracks. Reading and writing was that for me. Very little reading, very little motivation to write.
Enter a book to change that.
Jodi Picoult nailed this one right out of the park. I read it in half a day.
RELEASE DATE: October 2018
SYNOPSIS: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic. But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard. Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.
REVIEW: I devoured this in less than 6 hours. I couldn’t put it down – I haven’t felt that way about a book in a very long time.
This book is designed to make you uncomfortable. At it’s core is a historic debate that has raged through the ages – pro-life vs. pro-choice. This novel rips the covers off of a topic and places the opinions of both sides right in your face.
Abortion is a thing that everyone has an opinion on – man or woman. While I won’t spend this review debating which side I’m on, this novel drives down it’s premise strictly to that of differing opinions – at which point does a difference of opinion build up preconceived judgements? At what point does a difference in opinion cause right for fight? At what point does a difference of opinion mean the difference between a morality and ethics? Regardless of what side of the fence you fall under (Reviewers Note: I am very pro-choice), this novel gives you both sides of the equation and does not hesitate to get into the dirty – the parts of both sides of an argument that bring out the worst in other people.
This novel is bold. Bold and uncomfortable in a way that had me squirming in my seat. It’s meant to be bold – at it’s centre, the novel is about a hostage situation but it’s the decisions up to that hostage situation that is the true narrative here. Presented are both sides equation – pro-lifers who firmly base their beliefs in God’s right and morality, pro-choicers who firmly base their beliefs in women’s rights and science. Picoult devours both sides – we are given a balanced look at both sides of the narrative, as to not skew the reader in one way shape or form.
The characters at the centre of this story are people we can meet in our everyday lives. Doctors who are willing to stand against protestors to provide state of the art care to women. A woman faced with an impossible choice after an affair turns messy. A teenager who wishes for birth control but can’t face the task of asking her single father to take her to the doctor. An underage teenager looking for adoration and found it in the wrong man. A woman is unsure she is ready for the pressures of being a mother based on her poor upbringing. All of these women are present in our everyday lives, which is why I think this novel hit so close to home for me – female and reproductive rights have always been a contentious issue, even North of the border (I’m Canadian) and to see the hardships that women endure for procedures, medical care and information that would be standard if it was for the opposite sex was eye-opening to read.
What I think really stuck with me even after reading it was the discussion that this opens up. Women’s rights and equality are under fire even more so than ever – mentions of rape, harassment, and reproductive rights are present within our news feed everyday. In a mainly man-run world, women’s rights can be dictated and snatched away with a snap of the finger – this book aims to bring forth a conversation on women’s reproduction issues that is hoping to set a more positive outcome in the years to come.
The novel itself is set backwards – starting from the near end of a hostage situation and walking backwards in hour intervals until the fateful moment the gunman walked into the women’s clinic. While it can read as a spoiler (you know who lives and dies in the first chapter, but that does not stop us from getting beautifully insightful perspectives from them in later chapters), it works flawlessly, in a way that I don’t think too many authors can pull off – only the greats. Each chapters have multiple perspectives – every main character gets a perspective, including the gunmen, his hostages, and those on the outside who are directly affected. While at first it was overwhelming, it flowed well and these perspectives aligned to tell a larger narrative, with little subtle hints that some eager readers may miss.
My only only gripe? There were a few storylines I felt were (deliberately?) left open-ended. I wanted some closure on some of the characters journeys.
I walk away from this novel impressively moved. Picoult, as always, is the master of emotion, intensity, delicacy, and suspense, all wrapped up in one.
A few all-time favourite quotes:
“Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray.”
“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”