January 17, 2019
Small Great Things
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
2016 Ballantine Books
Finished on December 19, 2018
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)
#1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult is a born storyteller who "writes with a fine touch, a sharp eye for detail, and a firm grasp of the delicacy and complexity of human relationships" (The Boston Globe). Small Great Things is Picoult at her finest--complete with unflinching insights, richly layered characters, and a page-turning plot with a gripping moral dilemma at its heart.
Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse, 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, but the next day the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone on the ward. 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 Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep her life as normal as possible--especially for her teenaged son. And as the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others--and themselves--might be wrong.
I've read over a dozen books by Jodi Picoult and this may very well be my favorite. As always, Jodi is a marvelous storyteller and this timely novel is one I simply couldn't put down. In classic Picoult style, with her alternating points-of-view and courtroom drama, Small Great Things is a compelling read with believable dialogue and authentic characters. However, the white supremicist storyline was so disturbing that I almost quit after reading the first few chapters. I'm glad I stuck with it since it turned out to be such a thought-provoking and important book, one that I think would be an excellent book club choice. Reading Small Great Things was an uncomfortable experience; it made me angry, but it also made me think more deeply about racial awareness, intolerance and social injustice. This would be a great book to read and discuss in conjunction with Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson) and The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas).