Jodi Picoult is on point once gain with her latest offering, Small Great Things. While I was always going to write a review of this book, I became more determined to do so in the wake of the US Presidential Election.
Small Great Things tells the story of African-American labour nurse, Ruth Jefferson, who is forbidden by the White Supremacist parents of a newborn baby boy to care for him. When the baby goes into cardiac arrest while left alone in the nursery with Ruth, Ruth hesitates to perform CPR and is ultimately charged with murder.
I love Picoult and feel like she can write about any topic compassionately. However, I can understand why some people might have been comprehensive about a white author taking on a huge topic such a race, a topic that is not easy to provide answers for. In my opinion, Picoult touches just enough on both racism and white privilege, successfully telling the story from both sides. How does she do this? By not advocating herself as a spokesperson for African-Americans. Yes, we see difficulties endured through the eyes of Ruth, but what the story mostly shows us is a lawyer facing up to her white privilege.
As seen following the results of the US Presidential Election, there is a tendency amongst part of the population to deny that white privilege is a thing. For most of the book, Kennedy McQuarrie, Ruth’s lawyer, is adamant that the trial is not about race. However, as the story draws to a close, she realizes it is not something which can be ignored any longer.
I read Jodi Picoult books because they make me think, but none have made me think as much as this one. By reading Small Great Things, I now see how racism can manifest in many different ways, ways that are not always extreme. That was a lesson very valuable to me and one I will keep with me forever.
In terms of how the story was written, I think Picoult wins in terms of character creation. I believe that there are no one-sided characters in the entirety of the story. We see the main characters develop in terms of their belief as much as we see where their belief originally stemmed from. Using these characters, Picoult gets her message across in a not very subtle but an effective way.
Fans of Picoult will love this book. Readers who haven’t previously been fans should still give this a go; the realness of the topic is sure to be an eye-opener in light of today’s world.