By: Jodi Picoult
Published: October 11, 2016
In 2012, best-selling author Jodi Picoult saw a news story about an African-American nurse who was asked be removed from the care of a certain baby due to a request by a white supremacist family. The nurse sued the hospital for discrimination and they settled out of court. Picoult tells in a Time Magazine article that this got her asking a number of "What Ifs" and led to the premise of her new book.
Ruth Walker has been a labor and delivery nurse for over twenty years. When she takes over for the nurse going off shift, she enters the room of the Bauers to take care of their newborn, Davis. When she attempts to help the mother nurse, the father, Turk, asks her to leave the room immediately and eventually Ruth finds out she's been reassigned to another patient and she is not to have any contact with the Bauers or their son because she is an African-American. After a busy afternoon on the labor and delivery floor, Ruth is unexpectedly assigned to monitor Davis after his circumcision because no other nurses are available. Davis goes into respiratory arrest while in Ruth's care. She must decide whether to follow orders and not touch the baby, or follow her oath as a nurse and try to save this baby. When the Code Blue is alerted, the staff are unable to revive Davis and Ruth is eventually charged with his murder. Through the chapters, readers hear from the perspectives of Ruth, Turk, and Kennedy, the lawyer assigned to Ruth's case.
Picoult's novel is timely and causes readers to feel uncomfortable as she talks racism from the perspective of all three main characters. Turk, Brittany, and her father's feelings towards anyone that isn't white were difficult to read. I often felt my stomach churning and disliking the direction the story was going. I had to take breaks after reading Turk's chapters because they were so full of hate and anger. Picoult admits, that type of racism is easy to spot and criticize. But, the racism that many of us ignore and display are more difficult to admit. Some readers will likely feel ashamed as Kennedy talks about her own racial ignorance.
Picoult states "It was the hardest book I've ever written" due to her own evaluation of prejudice and privilege. As the reader moves through the trial, prejudices will be questioned. Of course, Picoult has her signature shake-ups and twists to drop jaws and keep readers guessing what the outcome will be. I felt like the story was realistic except I did have an issue with one piece of the story. Since the Bauers were so against an African-American nurse, I had a hard time understanding their acceptance of an African-American lawyer handling the murder case for their son. But, that character added another level to the racism expressed towards Ruth in the story.
Fans of Jodi Picoult won't be disappointed with her latest page-turner and readers will desperately want to find someone to talk to about the way the novel made them feel and, like with any other book, they'll want to talk about the ending. Picoult chose the title of the book from the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." I hope this novel makes each of us look at the small ways we can make changes in our society.
A Short Story
By: Jodi Picoult
Published: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
This prequel tells Ruth's story growing up in Harlem. We meet her as a third grader, starting in a new, private school. Her mother is the maid for a wealthy family and Ruth is allowed to go to school with their daughter, Christina. Ruth has earned the privilege by her work ethic and grades. But, going to an all-white school isn't all the Ruth thought it would be.
This short story gives the reader a bit of background on the early racism Ruth experienced as a child. It also shares the life of her sister, Adisa, her mother, and Christina's family while Ruth was growing up. It isn't necessary to read this before reading SMALL GREAT THINGS, but it does give the reader a bit of understanding of Ruth's decisions and feelings toward certain family members.
|Jodi Picoult - source|
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