Published October 11, 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I could probably write a twelve page review on everything I want to talk about from this book, everything I learned from this book. However, my reviews are long as it is so I will try my best to keep it short (well…shorter than twelve pages).
I have read every book by Jodi Picoult and they all make me think. As I’ve said before I always learn something too. But I feel like this book is the one that hit me hardest. I learned so much and from the moment I started reading it, it has been on my mind.
Ruth Jefferson is the widowed mother of one teenage son, Edison. Her husband died during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. She is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital. A highly skilled nurse with more than twenty years experience.
While doing a regular check-up on a newborn baby, Ruth notices the mother and father glaring at her. She also notices a tattoo on the father’s arm. It’s a tattoo of a Confederate flag. Only a few minutes later, Ruth is told by her supervisor that she’s been reassigned and she’s not to touch the Bauer baby. She finds out that the parents are white supremacists and they don’t want, Ruth, who is African-American, anywhere near their baby.
The next day at the hospital Ruth happens to be alone in the hospital nursery when the Bauer baby goes into cardiac distress. Ruth has not idea what to do. Does she obey the orders she’s been given? Or should she intervene to help the baby who’s clearly in need of help?
The story is told from three points of view. The nurse (Ruth), the public defender (Kennedy), and the white supremacist father (Turk).
What Ruth does and doesn’t do ends up with her being brought up on serious charges. Kennedy McQuarrie is the white public defender that takes her case. But Ruth doesn’t know if she can trust her. Can Kennedy possibly ever understand what life is like for Ruth? They will need to work together. Can Ruth let go of some of the control she’s held tightly to all of her life but still say what she really feels? Will Kennedy be able to face the things she learns not only about others but also about herself?
As the trial also plays out in the media it starts to affect Ruth’s son. Edison struggles with comments made to him in regards to the color of his skin. Some of these comments hurt even more because they are coming from life-long friends. Ruth’s son is an honours student that has always stayed out of trouble. But will what’s happening with his mother derail all of his plans?
When I read the first sentence from Turk’s point of view, I instantly hated him. I thought there was no way I would find anything redeeming in this character. We read a lot about Turk’s upbringing. How he got involved with “The Movement” and the horrible things he had done. We also learn how him and his wife, Brittany met and the life they lived.
This book took me about a week to read. Not because I didn’t have time but because I just found it very hard to read at times. The time spent reading Turk’s point of view were anxiety inducing. I just couldn’t understand such an extreme hatred. It made me angry, sad, and uncomfortable. But maybe that’s a good thing?
A quote from the author’s note…
“I wrote it because I believed it was the right thing to do, and because the things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know”
I had many conversations with my daughter, mother and friends about racism and racism awareness while reading this book. So many things I didn’t even realize that still go on. Not all white supremacists walk around with shaved heads and tattoos letting us know what they stand for. Now they have the internet to network and have learned to hide in plain sight and that is beyond terrifying.
I thought this book was very well written. It was easy to follow the alternating points of view and the characters were so well-developed. As usual I can tell how much research went into this book. Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me with how she can both entertain and teach me with her books.
There’s so much more I want to say but I will stop here. Although “Small Great Things” is tough to read at times, I think it’s an important read and I highly recommend it.
Thank you to NetGalley, Ballantine Books, and Jodi Picoult for an advanced copy of this novel that I received in exchange for my honest review.