Small Great Things Review
Oh Boy. What can I say about Jodi Picoult? I've read The Tenth Circle, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper, but one of her books, The Pact, made me swear off her forever.
My older brother read The Pact and recommended it. Having read her before, I had a gist for Picoult's writing style. A chapter in, I knew I had made a grave mistake. The Pact is to date the saddest book I've read. I hardly finished it; my mother had to force me to sit down and read to the end because I had been "moping around" over it too long. I cried for days. Each time I thought about it I cried, it really stuck with me.
Point is, I was traumatized after The Pact and I swore I'd never pick up one of her novels again. Or so I thought.
Small Great Things centers around Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital for more than twenty years. What started as a normal day taking on a new patient quickly became one of the worst days of her life, as she’s told she can’t care for the newborn because she’s Black. The parents, who are white supremacist, make it clear Ruth can’t touch their child. But when the baby goes into cardiac arrest and Ruth is alone in the room, does she obey orders or save the child’s life? Read a full summary here.
“Babies are such blank slates. They don’t come into this world with the assumptions their parents have made, or the promises their church will give, or the ability to sort people into groups they like and don’t like. They don’t come into this world with anything, really, except a need for comfort. And they will take it from anyone, without judging the giver. I wonder how long it takes before the polish given by nature gets worn off by nurture.”
― Jodi Picoult, Small Great Things
What entails is a nail-biting trial that places both racism and white privilege on the stand. Though it’s told in the classic Picoult fashion of switching from each character’s perspective, this is Ruth’s story, and a story I feel is Picoult’s most important to date.
Perhaps it’s how thought provoking it was as to why I enjoyed it so much. I became (embarrassingly) intrigued by white supremacy. I spent a great deal of time googling how prevalent it is in our society, and even discovered my hometown has quite a large presence of white supremacist. Reading the white supremacist father’s point of view (Turk) was anxiety inducing to me. I really can’t fathom putting that much time and energy into hatred, but there was more than one occasion where I had to take a deep breath and close the book.
I found myself stuck on how the novel’s lawyer claims “bringing race into the courtroom is not a winning strategy.” Is that true? How many cases per day are a direct result of racism? How many people are indicted as a result of racism? How many cases are swayed by a racist juror? And how will we ever know if race isn’t allowed in the courtroom?
I’m not sure if the statement is true, but it’s certainly what stuck with me the most. What’s the point of a fair trial if you’re walking into an unfair courtroom to begin with? Picoult offers a character that I feel helps support these questions: Juror number twelve, Lila Fairclough. Though she’s a teacher in the inner city in a racially integrated classroom, she exhibits acts of racism that she may not even realize. In the end, she ends up being a key player to the trial, but her actions are an example of racism that I believe a lot of people in society don’t think about. I’m not giving it away!
The only thing that bothered me was I feel Picoult got out her soap box and wrote this novel to white Americans as a “how not to be racist.” But perhaps that was her point given that her audience is prominently white females who view her books as chick-lit. It’s a great read, one I thoroughly enjoyed, and one I feel is timely for our nation. I’d give it a solid recommendation, it’s a total page-turner, especially if you’re a fan of Jodi Picoult. I highly expect it to be written to film.
Picoult’s newest novel, A Spark of Light, hit shelves October 2. It’s a little heavy for me (I’m already having flashbacks to The Pact) but you can read a summary here.
Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from babies. The only seek care without judgement of the provider. If we channeled our energy into nurturing our surroundings with love and respect, not only would our environment thrive, but I’d think we would find that our needs are met along with the needs of others.
-Go with the tide-