I haven’t written any book reviews recently, but I just had to share my thoughts on Jodi Picoult’s latest novel, Small Great Things! It’s an incredible book, and if you read one book this year, it’s got to be Small Great Things. My review will show you why!
Jodi Picoult has once again proved that she is one of the best contemporary authors in Small Great Things, her 24th novel. Published in 2016, Small Great Things is an insightful and thought-provoking book about race and prejudice in 21st century America. It’ll make you question your beliefs and reconsider the way in which you view other people.
The book focuses on Ruth Jefferson, an experienced nurse at a hospital in Connecticut who one day finds herself handling the baby of a white supremacist couple. The parents (Turk and Brittany Bauer) demand that only white people can look after their baby, which understandably offends Ruth and makes her angry. When there are no other nurses available to observe the baby after an operation, Ruth has no choice but to step in, going against Turk and Brittany’s wishes. Soon after, the baby passes away, and the couple immediately blame Ruth, just because she is black. They take Ruth to court, not caring about the devastating effect that this will have on her and her family.
As with the majority of Jodi Picoult’s books, Small Great Things is told from multiple perspectives. Obviously we hear from Ruth and Turk, but we are also given several chapters from the point of view of Kennedy McQuarrie, the public offender who is involved in the case. Kennedy is a white middle-class woman who takes an interest in Ruth’s case. She believes that she isn’t racist and is determined to not make the case about race, as it’s something that “you shouldn’t bring up in court”. However, by the end of the trial, Kennedy realises that racism is covert, as well as overt; people don’t always realise that they are exhibiting racist behaviour.
By entering the mind of Turk, we can understand where his hatred for black people (as well as Jewish people and basically anyone who isn’t white and straight) stems from. While we see just how horrible Turk is, Picoult also reveals his softer side; although he is racist and homophobic, Turk cares a lot about his wife and was really looking forward to having a son. Nevertheless, it’s still impossible not to detest him.
Although I could relate to Kennedy the most, I’d have to say that Ruth is my favourite character in Small Great Things. I felt a lot of sympathy for her. She is a respectable college graduate, nurse and mother who was put in a difficult situation. She has spent her life constantly judged by the colour of her skin and did everything she could to ensure that her son Edison has the best possible education.
Even without reading the Author’s Note, it’s obvious that Picoult did a lot of research before sitting down to write this book. Not only did she have to study nursing, but she also had to research white supremacists and the lives of black people in America. She had to get into the minds of these people and understand their thought processes, and I commend her for doing so.
Overall, Small Great Things is one of the best books I have ever read. Yes, it’s very long (at over 500 pages), and there are some stereotypes that still appear occasionally throughout the book, for example with Ruth’s sister Adisa, but Small Great Things is a powerful novel that deals with an important issue. You’ll be shocked that people like Turk still live in our society.
What books have you read recently? Have you read Small Great Things? What did you think?