by: Jodi Picoult
Published by:Ballantine Books
Genres:Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Format: Mobi (Kindle file)
Source: Publisher (via Netgalley)
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.
The title comes from a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”
Ruth is an African-American labor and delivery nurse at a small Connecticut hospital. When a white supremacist bars Ruth from touching his baby, Ruth is put in a no win situation. After the baby dies the hospital uses Ruth as their scapegoat.
I absolutely adore Jodi Picoult. One of my top three books of all time is her novel, ‘The Storyteller’. Picoult is also one of my go to authors when I’m in a reading slump. So when I read the synopsis of ‘Small Great Things,’ I knew it would be an engrossing read.
The premise of this book is also very timely.
The story is told from three points of view: Ruth, Turk (the baby’s white supremacist
father), and Kennedy (Ruth’s criminal attorney). Turk’s point of view is filled with such hate soaked and vile behavior that it is very uncomfortable to read. This is done intentionally on Picoult’s part. It gives the reader a no-holds-barred view into Turk’s mind and what he is capable of. Ruth’s point of view is also potent. It not only highlights how unfair she is treated after the baby’s death but also gives the reader an idea what Ruth goes through everyday .
‘Small Great Things’ is all most 500 pages. It is rare,that for a book this long, I am not constantly aware of how much of the book I have gotten through. ‘Small Great Things’ is one of those books that I just flew through. As the story develops the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story.
As much as I loved this book there were a few things that were problematic for me. One is that Ruth and her sister Rachel (Adisa) are totally 100% opposite in their ideas, beliefs, work ethic, etc. It just doesn’t seem logical that two sisters who are so close in age and who were raised in the same household could be so incredibly different. The second issue, and this is the bigger on of the two, is the actions of the hospital administration didn’t make any sense. They put a restriction on Ruth because she is African-American. This in turn puts her in a no win situation. The hospital is small. It is likely that Ruth would be the only nurse available to care for the Bauer baby if an emergency would happen. Then she must either disobey her supervisors orders and care for the baby or break her nursing oath by just standing by. When the Bauer baby dies Ruth is thrown under the bus by the hospital’s attorney. This just didn’t make any sense to me. The attorney for the hospital would have known that race was going to come up as a reason Ruth was suspended. Also, scapegoating Ruth did not free up the hospitals liability in the baby’s death. In fact it would, most likely, add to it.
Despite these hiccups in the storyline ‘Small Great Things’ is definitely my favorite book of the year so far. I will definitely be watching the movie with Viola Davis and Julia Roberts when it comes out.