Hey there. Mary here.
This book is one that is gaining quite a bit of popularity. It was published in October of last year. You probably have seen the cover, or heard the title.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ruth Jefferson is the only black nurse that works in Labor and Delivery at a hospital in Connecticut. She has worked there for twenty years and loves her job.
Her whole world is thrown into a nightmare when she is singled out by a patient who is a white supremacist. The patient asks Ruth’s supervisor to not let any African American touch her baby. Ruth is understandably upset, but tries to shake off the incident and move on.
The next day there is an emergency and as a result of the hospital being short handed temporarily, the baby is left in Ruth’s care. In those fifteen minutes she is with him, she notices that the baby has gone blue and is struggling to breathe. She is faced with an impossible decision. Disregard the patient’s request and risk her job to try to save the baby’s life, or do as she has been told and not touch the newborn.
This book shines a big bright light on the racism that is still alive and well. The title comes from a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. He said “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
It is told through 3 different points of view. You have Ruth, the nurse, who has been charged with a serious crime after the baby that was in her care dies. You have Turk, the father of the baby, who considers himself a leader in the fight for white power. And then you have Kennedy, the defense attorney that is trying to save Ruth from a murder charge.
I had to plow through this book as fast as I could. Being inside the mind of a Nazi worshiping white supremacist is so disturbing and infuriating. I was so shocked by the type of things that he was thinking and remembering. I honestly had no idea that there were people in the United States today that were so messed up. I had to talk to friends that have lived further East and have experience with white supremacists because his actions felt so over the top they it almost felt like the author was overdoing it. But, they (ok- it was just one person- and it was Jessica) was able to verify that she has seen that sort of racism first hand.
My favorite thing about this book is that it was able to reach the audience it was intended for- those of us in the middle. We think we aren’t racist. We don’t have anything against people of color. We would consider ourselves fair and equal in our judgement of those of a different ethnicity. But, through the perspectives of Ruth and her white attorney Kennedy, it makes you stop and ask yourself some big scary questions.
I don’t consider myself racist. But, I found that I do automatically assume that Hispanic people and possibly black people aren’t as educated as I am. I do avoid neighborhoods where I know I will be a minority. Racism isn’t a myth. There is still a little piece of it in almost everyone. And this book inspired me to want to take steps to find that part of me and destroy it somehow.
I do need to give you some warning though. This book may not be for everyone. I broke my 2 F word rule. It probably had 10-15 in there. Turk has a serious potty mouth.
Also, there is a very brief sex scene.
I only gave this book 3.75 stars out of 5 because as good as it was, it really did feel a bit over-saturated with shaming. There were several experiences that Ruth had that I don’t think happen in my neighborhood. It was like she was shaking her finger at me for being suspicious of a black man driving down my street very slowly looking at my house. The truth is, I am suspicious of ANYONE driving slowly down my street and staring at my house if I don’t know them. I would start to feel guilty for things, and then take a step back and tell myself that I don’t do those things, and then feel guilty because I worried that just meant I was ignoring that I did those things. Haha. I think things in Connecticut might be a little more severe than they are here in small town Utah.
Also, near the end, everything is pretty much resolved the best you think it can be, but Jodi Picoult couldn’t end it there. She had to take it one step further, which I think may have been a wrong move. Spoiler: it ends with a nice ribbon. All the loose ends are tied off just perfectly. I don’t know that life ever really happens that way.
I still recommend that you read it, especially for a book club. I am excited for our book club at the library. I think there is going to be some great discussion!
What are you thoughts? Do you guys think that racism still plays a big part in our society?