Small Great Thingsby Published 11 Oct 2016
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Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
"Small Great Things" Reviews
I had a heavy heart starting this and it got that much heavier as I read. As much as it was not uplifting, there were moments of beauty here that made my heart swell.
This is a story about racism told from 3 perspectives: A black nurse not sure what choice to make; A skinhead who is sure of his choices; a defense attorney who is questioning her own choices.
A tough theme that still exists, sadly, in our culture. It's about justice - or injustice - and how is this defined? It's about the loss of life which is a no win for anyone.
We are given 2 sides of the story: the white one and the black one. How each group is perceived and the emotions tied to them. It's not just about hate. It's how it is taught and embedded in lives from an early age and the differences that even today exist about inequality. One GR friend mentions thought provoking. It is. It spins you from one side to the other and the reader can clearly see why and what the other feels. Is it right? Wrong? Depends from which angle you view it.
Picoult, you take daringly tough themes and write them from a place that has clarity or are you blurring the lines? A reminder these misperceptions still exist and society has not yet successfully bridged those gaps and narrowed those chasms. You give us insights that are frighteningly real and remind us that history can still burn in our hearts and cause us to behave in ways that are more emotional than factual. 4****
This is a powerful book, bold in some ways , as we have a white author bringing to us a story depicting what racism looks like and trying to tell those of us who are not black, what it feels like . But anyone who has read any of Jodi Picoult's books knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult to discuss topics. I don't think very often about white supremacists . Maybe because there hasn't been much about them in the news on a regular basis (until recently) or maybe because it's so uncomfortable to admit that there are people of this way of thinking around us that it's easier to not think about it . Lately though there has been some news attention to white supremacy as it's ugly face comes out, but the ugly face of racism is front and center in the every day life of Ruth Jefferson in this novel not just with the white supremacists portrayed here . This is what makes Picoult's new novel so relevant.
An African American labor and delivery nurse, Ruth Jefferson is on trial for the murder of a newborn baby she tries to save after she was told she could not care for the baby at the request of the white supremacist parents. I couldn't help but like Ruth , a hard working widow who works hard at a job she loves to make a good life for her son. Ruth's narrative alternates with Turk, the baby's father. It was definitely uncomfortable reading what Turk has to say about black people but that's the point - showing it to us , jarring us into seeing it. A third narrative is provided by Ruth's public defender, attorney, Kennedy, who has lived a charmed life and who thinks she's up to the job and not racist. She may very well not be racist but she definitely doesn't know what Ruth is feeling.
Racism is prevalent in other ways than the blatant views of Turk, in the hospital lawyer, from the police , from friends of Ruth's son, a patient thinking the white student nurse was in charge and not Ruth and worst of all for Ruth from people she thought of as good friends. The ending, the twist are a little too pat. Having said that, Picoult has done an admirable job of raising an issue that so needs to be discussed. A compelling story that needs to be read.
Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley.
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...
I could probably write a twelve page review on everything I want to talk about from this book, everything I learned from this book. However, my reviews are long as it is so I will try my best to keep it short (well...shorter than twelve pages).
I have read every book by Jodi Picoult and they all make me think. As I've said before I always learn something too. But I feel like this book is the one that hit me hardest. I learned so much and from the moment I started reading it, it has been on my mind.
Ruth Jefferson is the widowed mother of one teenage son, Edison. Her husband died during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. She is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital. A highly skilled nurse with more than twenty years experience.
While doing a regular check-up on a newborn baby, Ruth notices the mother and father glaring at her. She also notices a tattoo on the father's arm. It's a tattoo of a Confederate flag. Only a few minutes later, Ruth is told by her supervisor that she's been reassigned and she's not to touch the Bauer baby. She finds out that the parents are white supremacists and they don't want, Ruth, who is African-American, anywhere near their baby.
The next day at the hospital Ruth happens to be alone in the hospital nursery when the Bauer baby goes into cardiac distress. Ruth has not idea what to do. Does she obey the orders she's been given? Or should she intervene to help the baby who's clearly in need of help?
The story is told from three points of view. The nurse (Ruth), the public defender (Kennedy), and the white supremacist father (Turk).
What Ruth does and doesn't do ends up with her being brought up on serious charges. Kennedy McQuarrie is the white public defender that takes her case. But Ruth doesn't know if she can trust her. Can Kennedy possibly ever understand what life is like for Ruth? They will need to work together. Can Ruth let go of some of the control she's held tightly to all of her life but still say what she really feels? Will Kennedy be able to face the things she learns not only about others but also about herself?
As the trial also plays out in the media it starts to affect Ruth's son. Edison struggles with comments made to him in regards to the color of his skin. Some of these comments hurt even more because they are coming from life-long friends. Ruth's son is an honours student that has always stayed out of trouble. But will what's happening with his mother derail all of his plans?
When I read the first sentence from Turk's point of view, I instantly hated him. I thought there was no way I would find anything redeeming in this character. We read a lot about Turk's upbringing. How he got involved with "The Movement" and the horrible things he had done. We also learn how him and his wife, Brittany met and the life they lived.
This book took me about a week to read. Not because I didn't have time but because I just found it very hard to read at times. The time spent reading Turk's point of view were anxiety inducing. I just couldn't understand such an extreme hatred. It made me angry, sad, and uncomfortable. But maybe that's a good thing?
A quote from the author's note...
"I wrote it because I believed it was the right thing to do, and because the things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know"
I had many conversations with my daughter, mother and friends about racism and racism awareness while reading this book. So many things I didn't even realize that still go on. Not all white supremacists walk around with shaved heads and tattoos letting us know what they stand for. Now they have the internet to network and have learned to hide in plain sight and that is beyond terrifying.
I thought this book was very well written. It was easy to follow the alternating points of view and the characters were so well-developed. As usual I can tell how much research went into this book. Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me with how she can both entertain and teach me with her books.
There's so much more I want to say but I will stop here. Although "Small Great Things" is tough to read at times, I think it's an important read and I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Ballantine Books, and Jodi Picoult for the advanced copy of this novel that I received in exchange for my honest review.
Look up at the dark sky. See those stars? They all belong to Small Great Things.
The Small Great Things at the end is not the same Small Great Things it is at the beginning, meaning that so much is happening, so much is revealed that there’s no way to read the first chapter and predict the rest of the story.
Small Great Things has come a long way. So has Kennedy. So has Turk. So has Ruth. So has Edison. So has the world.
That’s how it should be. Doesn’t mean though, that we’re at the finish line yet. Small Great Things definitely proves that we aren’t.
Jodi Picoult’s new book didn’t make me realize how naïve I was—Michelle Alexander did with her talk on mass incarceration in the US. But while my eyes were wide due to Alexander’s revelatory comments on today’s caste system, this book opened them even wider thanks to Ruth’s honesty, Kennedy’s character-development and Turk’s sole existence.
There are some scenes in this book that seem ‘‘too good to be true,’’ especially the ones related to Adele and the judge at the end, but it doesn’t make the subject of racism less authentically dealt with.
Of course, this book made me angry... and that’s good. This means what happened to Ruth affected me. It’s unjust. It’s unfair. It’s inhumane. But what’s surprising is, though I completely hated Turk for suing Ruth, I still questioned whether Ruth was right to hesitate, and whether Turk was redeemable, and whether someone else beside Ruth should have been blamed.
We should question situations. It’s not because something seems completely wrong to us that we shouldn’t dig deeper on the subject; consider someone else’s opinion on the matter, which is why I’m so happy with the fact that this book is narrated by Ruth, Kennedy AND Turk.
A truly impressive story with great attention to detail and incredibly intense scenes at court.
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I have so much to say about how terrible this book is. I hated it. I hated it so much idk how I even finshed it. I don't think I've ever rolled my eyes this much while reading a book.
I am a black female medical student. The whole premise of this book is completely wrong. There is no way any medical professional was allowing a supervisor's rule prevent them from saving a patient in an emergency. We swear to do no harm and to act in the benefit of the patient. This would never happen, and if it did, then of course the nurse would be guilty of negligent homicide. Ruth is guilty, idgaf what the patient's family said, you save that baby. She has a moral and legal obligation to save that baby. But the point is, that would never happen.
Jodi Picoult is not black. Yet she writes in the point of view of a black woman and her life struggles. She does not know our struggle. There are so many little inaccuracies throughout the book that prove that she was not in the position to tell this story. For example, Ruth got bullied for her light skin. Are you fucking kidding me? Yes there is a division between light skin and dark skin, but dark skin is always always always on the losing side. So that pissed me off. Also, Ruth was the only black nurse in the department? Highly unlikely. Walk into any hospital esp on the east coast there are numerous black nurses. Idk if that was for dramatic effect but no. There was this part where Kennedy was like she told me about weaves and extensions, I told her about sunburns. Black people get sunburns, we know how it works like wtf.
I can't even begin to talk about this damn trial. Picoult really tried, she did. But again, Ruth is the stubborn angry black woman who doesnt listen to counsel and explodes in court. Ughhh everything about this book made me so mad. I hated the little anecdotes and metaphors, hated all of the characters except maybe Violet and Edison. Also the ending was completely ridiculous. But hey it made me laugh that Britt was half black. The scariest thing about this is the prevalence of white supremacists. I mean Donald Trump is our president we have so much to fear.
Maybe I'm nitpicking but all these little things add up and I got so angry while reading this because of how ridiculous it is. If anything, I hope this story inspired white people to pause and acknowledge their implicit bias.
I would suggest greys anatomy for a more realistic take on a similar topic. The episode when a white male supremacist enters the emergency room and he has a nazi tattoo and refuses to be seen by non white physicians, but bailey saves his life anyway because she understands non judgmental regard.