Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
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.
Jodi Picoult does it again as she makes you think about things in ways you never have before.
Having multiple narrators really strengthened this story. I learned a lot about the maternity ward and also the lengths Ruth went to living in a predominantly white neighborhood to give her son the best life she could. At the same time, it was painful to read from the viewpoint of a white supremacist. I found the behind the scenes courtroom interesting and learned a lot even though I’ve read a lot of John Grisham in my day.
I had the opportunity to hear Jodi Picoult speak about this book last month. She really made me think about some things I had never thought of before. I would never consider myself racist but I will be the first to admit that I live in rural America where there isn’t much diversity. I’ve never thought about what it would be like to not see people who look like me all around.
I had a discussion with a friend a couple of months ago that addresses this subject and it was really an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. I think about the fact that my grandparents were raised in a completely different timeframe than I have been raised. They saw segregation happening around them and remember what it was like before segregation. They carried with them a history of what they had lived through as white Americans living through that time in history. What I had never taken into consideration is that any African American who lived through that time period ALSO carried with them the memories of living through that time in history. When someone is rude to me or hurts my feelings, I tend to dwell on that. How could I expect anyone else to act differently?
Thank you Jodi Picoult for giving me a great story that makes me think at the same time.