‘If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.’ Martin Luther King Jr’I don’t want that nurse touching my baby.’ Those are the instructions from the newborn child’s parents. However, when the baby goes into cardiac arrest, Ruth, a nurse of twenty years’ experience, sees no option but to assist. But the baby dies. And Ruth is charged with negligent homicide.Ruth is shattered and bewildered as she tries to come to terms with her situation. She finds different kinds of support from her sister, a fiery radical, and her teenage son, but it is to Kennedy McQuarrie, a white middle-class lawyer, to whom she entrusts her case, and her future.As the two come to develop a truer understanding of each other’s lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they each hold most dear. In order for the privileged to prosper, they come to realise, others have to suffer. Racism takes many forms, and is reinforced and underpinned by the structures of our society.In gripping dramas like Nineteen Minutes, My Sister’s Keeper and The Pact, Jodi Picoult has explored the big issues of our time through characters whose lives resonate with us. Here we see once again her unrivalled ability to immerse us in a story whose issues will linger with us long after the final page has been finished.
I usually grab ahold of anything written by Jodi Picoult and dig right in, so when I saw this book coming out – Small Great Things – I couldn’t wait! Now that I’ve read the book I’ll say I was somewhat surprised but only somewhat, since we all know that Ms. Picoult is pretty awesome at writing about things that might be controversial subjects. Here’s a hint: for anyone like me that did not know – the phrase “small great things” is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King. Jodi Picoult was drawn to write this book and in the Author’s Note there’s a discussion regarding this topic.
Ruth Jefferson was a labor and delivery nurse. During her 20 year nursing career, Ruth had an exemplary record and had become very skilled in her profession. Ruth is caring for a newborn baby of a young white couple who are serious white supremacists who demand that the hospital remove Ruth from even being remotely near their child just because of the color of her skin. The newborn baby then goes into cardiac arrest and unfortunately for Ruth, she is the only nurse in the maternity ward at the hospital. At first she hesitates because of the hospital’s order for her to stay away from this child, but her training pushes her forward to try and save the child and performs CPR on the baby.
Tragically the child dies and the white supremacist couple presses charges against Ruth for “murdering” their child. Ruth is immediately arrested and dragged from her home in New York charged with murder. She is represented by a white female lawyer as she begins fighting for her life. As I read this story, I started to think perhaps there is more to bigotry than I even realize and this book was an eye opener for me in that regard.
Having worked in the legal field for over thirty years, I was really drawn to the bulk of the novel since it takes place in the courtroom. I loved the court procedurals throughout the story and Ms. Picoult goes a great job describing them. She also does a great job sharing the backstories of each of the main characters in this book.
Because racism is a controversial topic, some of the things said in this book might make readers feel a bit uncomfortable. I think most people in this world would consider themselves to be in the “middle” regarding the topic of racism – that is, until something might happen where they find themselves thinking one way or the other on the issue. The author weaves her way through this story with kid gloves while at the same making her points.
I was provided with a complimentary digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and unbiased opinion.