Title: Small Great Things Author: Jodi Picoult Published: October 11th 2016 by Ballantine Books Format: eBook; Hardcover, 470 pages Genre: Fiction Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
From the quote by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." Jodi Picoult draws the reader into the life of Ruth Jefferson, a forty-four year old labor and delivery nurse in Connecticut that is being charged with the killing of a baby whose parents are notorious white supremacist. Parents that are appalled by the idea that a black woman is caring for their newborn child and make it a point to have Ruth’s supervisor put a note in their son’s chart that no African-American’s are to go near their child. From that description alone, you would think that the book takes place in the 1950’s, but you would be wrong. This is modern day, a day where Ruth still needs to explain herself. A time where people are shocked that she has her nursing degree from Yale and lives in their upper class white neighborhood.
Told in alternating accounts from Ruth, Kennedy McQuarrie –Ruth’s attorney and Tuck Bauer the father of the newborn, the reader is brought face to face with the hatred and simmering anger that has brought these three people together. Ruth is fighting on many fronts, her sister Adisa is demanding that she step up and be a leader for her community, Ruth’s son Edison is coming of age with his own battles and responsibilities. Kennedy, the wife of an ophthalmologist, works in the free clinic so she could be the do-gooder in the family. Tuck the angry supremacist that found a home and became a leader within the skinhead movement and his wife Brittany who could not handle the death of her son and was later confronted by the mother that left her when she was a child.
Each person in this book had a strong voice and a story to tell. They each enlighten the reader and at the same time made their audience a bit uncomfortable about the realities that we all brush under the rug. The plotting is suspenseful and fast moving; you can feel the depth of each character and in some cases, their total disregard for human life. It is not until the very end, when Kennedy is forced to put Ruth on the stand, that the whole emotional kettle boils over. The years of anger are laid bare and Ruth finally has her say that she had kept bottled up for so long.
This book may anger many people, the people that do not feel that a white author should write a book from Ruth’s perspective. I disagree - I found this book to be remarkable from start to finish. In the past, I have not been a fan of Jodi Picoult’s work and questioned myself as to why I picked this one up in the first place, but after the first couple of chapters, I could not put it down. I encourage readers to take a chance, to open themselves up to the subject matter of this book and to possibly forgive the few sluggish parts and the rushed ending, but to take their time and find their tempo so that they can hear the story that is being told.