Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Date Read: October 2, 2016
Source: First to Read
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.
I like books that make you think and this was one of those books. This book deal with racism at all levels. I went through a wide range of feelings while reading this book. The story at the heart of the book seemed like it could have been pulled from current headlines. This was a story that I couldn't get out of my head and when I wasn't reading the book, I was thinking about it. I wasn't sure if this was a book that I would want to read when I first saw it but decided to give it a chance anyway and am very glad that I did.
This story is told from 3 points of view. Ruth, a labor and delivery nurse, is at the center of the story. She has been working as a nurse for the past 20 years and likes her job. Her other main focus is on her teenage son, who is an honor student and an all around good kid. When Ruth is assigned to work with the Bauer family, things take a turn and she is pulled from the case. The problem is not with her actions but the color of her skin. She is told not to care for the baby and when she is left alone with him and he has an emergency things go wrong. As a result, Ruth finds herself in the middle of a nightmare, charged with a crime and unable to work.
Turk is a white supremacist. His character made me angry and the parts of the book that were from his parts where hard to read. He is also a grieving father who wants to find some reason for his son's death. The blame is firmly placed on Ruth as the only African American nurse on duty and the individual who was there when the baby died. His hatred of anyone different that himself was extreme and often violent.
Kennedy was the lawyer assigned to work Ruth's case. Ruth's case is the first big case that she has worked and she really does work hard on it. She learns a lot about how racism can slip in to our daily lives without most of us realizing it. She knows that racism shouldn't be brought into the trial because that is just not how cases are worked. But it is a part of this case.
I thought that all three points of view brought a lot to the story. Sometimes they made me sad and other times they made me angry. Through Ruth, Kennedy, and Turk we learn about a lot of other people. Ruth's son goes through a lot as a result of the trial and must deal with issues from racism in his life. Ruth's mother and sister also play an important role in the story. Turk's wife and father-in-law were a large part of the story. Their belief system and history was difficult to think about but it helped illustrate their extreme thoughts. There were a few twists in the story that surprised me and I thought were well executed.
I would recommend this book to others. I thought this was a thought provoking page turner that I think many readers will enjoy. I applaud Jodi Picoult taking on such a relevant topic in this book.
I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine via First to Read.
About the Author
JODI PICOULT is the author of twenty-two novels, including Leaving Time and the #1 New York Times bestsellers Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper. She lives with her husband and three children.