Title: Small Great Things
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Publisher (ALA)
Format: Paperback ARC
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Literary Fiction
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
- Nelson Mandela
I can't think of a better time to read this book given the rise of racially-charged issues this nation is currently facing. Every day, it seems, the news reports on a police officer shooting an innocent victim. And unfortunately, the victim is usually a black person.
That's why it is refreshing to see this sensitive and pertinent topic handled by three differing points of view. There's Ruth, a labor and delivery nurse; there's Turk, a member of the Klan; and there's Kennedy, a public defender. Ruth and Turk reside on opposite sides of the spectrum given that Ruth is black and Turk hates black people and Kennedy stands somewhere in the middle - not a racist but generally unaffected by the racial climate. Until she has to defend Ruth for meddling with Turk's baby.
At the beginning of the story, these three characters would definitely have something to say about racism and police shootings.
Ruth would say that a Huffington Post article states that as of July this year, 194 black individuals have been shot by police.
Turk would say that killedbypolice.net shows that 868 deaths by police have occurred this year and the majority murdered are most likely white people.
Kennedy would say that the issue is most likely systemic. That the police force and the community need to start working towards trusting each other again.
Towards the end, these characters definitely sing a different tune. And the changes all three go through is the heart of the story. And although everything seems to end a bit too neatly, I didn't mind in the slightest. Turk was definitely the character most unlike me which is why I thought he was the most captivating. It's also fascinating to see what makes people turn to groups with this mass mentality and a targeted mindset such as the KKK, or cults, or organized militia groups.
Picoult includes an Author's Note at the end of the book and after reading it, I realize that Kennedy represents exactly how she felt before delving into all the research she did for this novel - someone who is not racist but also someone who truly, deep down, doesn't understand the challenges that come from suffering from racist views. Call this ignorance. Call this a difference in life perspective. Call this whatever you like. The important thing is that reading this book may change the way you look at the topic and compel you to question it, and possibly, help you figure out a way to contribute to the cause rather than passively consider it.
And I'm pretty sure that this book will stir up some level of controversy. Simply for the fact that it tackles a highly debatable subject and certainly for those who are steadfast proponents of this whole "own voice" movement, which I truly don't understand. From the dawn of man, authors have repeatedly tackled issues that do not necessarily sprout from their own experiences and this is a good thing! It shows that the author was passionate and courageous enough to write it and get the dialogue going. So Bravo! to Mrs. Picoult. Needless to say, I highly recommend this one.