By Jodi Picoult
Goodreads Community Rating: 4.34
Genre: Contemporary Fiction w/ racism focus
Publication Date: October 11th 2016
Format Read: Hardcover
Goodreads Summary: 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.
wow. Before reading this book, I considered myself pretty aware of racial issues, but this book did a fantastic job of further educating me and calling me out on all of the racism present in my every day life, and racism that I perpetrate. As Picoult stated in her author’s note, that was the purpose of the book. She wrote from the perspective of a black woman on trial for a crime she did not commit, a white woman lawyer, and a white supremacist, but her primary audience was people who, like the white lawyer, consider themselves allies, but still say and do things that are completely and totally racist. Without even realizing it. I think she managed to accomplish this task in stunning fashion, which makes this a must read for literally every white person who is sitting here thinking “well I’m, not racist”.
Besides educating readers, Picoult managed to craft a compelling story line which kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I flew through this book in less than a week (which is really good for me) and never once was I bored reading it. Basically, it was another Picoult masterpiece.
Ruth, who I would consider the mainest character of the book, is a Yale educated black nurse. She is subject to a racist request that ends up causing her to be accused of murder, and put on trial. The book follows her and all of the racist incidences which she endures. I think Ruth was fabulously written because I personally related to her struggles of always trying to prove yourself (albeit for very very different reasons and at a very different magnitude), and her tribulations as a mother were powerful. She seemed very human and real and you almost felt like you were her friend.
Kennedy is the white woman representing Ruth on trial. I believe that she was written to be similar to the main audience of Picoult’s book. She also felt real, and a lot of her inner monologue was meant to teach, but a lot of it made me love her and feel for her and become her.
Turk, the white supremacist, is absolutely awful. He serves as a stark counterpoint to everything we aspire to be in society, and Picoult does an incredible job of making us hate him while still showing that he’s a real person. He became the perfect villian, and terrified me that people like this exist in real life.
Basically, Ruth is put on trial, and Kennedy represents her, but also becomes her friend. Ruth makes Kennedy aware of all of the microaggressions and racism that is present in every day life for Ruth, that Kennedy would never have even noticed before.
The plot is compelling and fascinating, and you honestly don’t know how it is going to turn out until the very end. This is assisted by the fact that there are three points of view, which means that you get the three main possible perspectives on racism and everything that occurs throughout the book. This allows readers to understand exactly what they are doing wrong in their lives, but also makes the book super super interesting to read.
there is never a dull moment, and flashbacks give the reader a deep understanding of each character, as well as providing bits of “action” into sections that are not as fast paced.
I loved this book. The plot was incredible, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s most certainly a must read, and will go down as one of Picoult’s bests, at least in my opinion.
I wanted to end with linking you to a review on Goodreads which addressed some of the issues which specifically people of color could have with this book. As I stated earlier, Picoult has made it abundantly clear that this book was about educating white people, but I think that some of the issues brought up in this review, written by Tracy, are super valid, and so I would recommend reading it before you pick up the book. Read the review here.
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Have you read this book? What did you think? What is your favorite Jodi Picoult novel?