“That’s because racism isn’t just about hate. We all have biases, even if don’t think we do. It’s because racism is also about who has power…and who has access to it.”
Small Great Things is one of those books I’ve heard nothing but great things about and was really excited to read, but somehow it took me months to actually pick it up. Not for any specific reason and definitely not because I didn’t want to, especially since I’ve read and enjoyed a few Jodi Picoult novels in the past, but somehow I always ended up with a different title in my hands instead. And right now, I kind of want to kick myself for waiting this long to pick up my copy. Because there is no doubt that Small Great Things is an emotional, well written, powerful and unforgettable story. Simply brilliant!
I’m actually having a hard time getting my thoughts properly on paper, but I’m going to try and explain why this story is THAT good anyway. First of all, Small Great Things focuses on the very important topic of racism and racial problematics. This alone was enough for me to want to read the story, but what stands out is the excellent execution of this topic. The diversity of the characters Jodi Picoult used to tell this story is spot on, as well as their development. We see the story develop through the eyes of both the African American nurse Ruth, the white supremacist Turk who just lost his baby and Ruth’s (white) lawyer Kennedy. Through this diverse collection of characters Jodi Picoult is able to address a wide variety of issues related to race problematics, resulting in a VERY powerful story that will stay with you for a long time. This is a story that will make you think: like the author says, racism isn’t just about active racism; passive racism is just as dangerous and something we don’t tend to pay enough attention to. But there is more. Not only is Small Great Things a story with a very important topic that is well executed and with diverse and well developed characters, the plot itself is also intriguing and the whole message behind this story is very powerful. And to top things off, the prose is just as good as every other aspect of this novel. As you might have guessed, I can more than recommend Small Great Things.
The African American Ruth Jefferson has been working as a delivery nurse in a Connecticut hospital for more than twenty years, and she has never had a complaint. But when one day she begins a routin checkup on a newborn, his parents don’t seem too happy about having Ruth as a nurse. They are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth to touch their child… Minutes later, Ruth hears she is no longer to come close to the child. There’s nothing to be done, but then the next day Ruth is faced with an impossible dilemma. The baby goes in cardiac distress when she is alone in the nursery; should she obey orders and stay away or try to save him? Sadly the baby dies and his parents blame Ruth for his death. Ruth soon faces a murder charge, and the one person that might keep her out of prison is the white public defender Kennedy McQuarrie. But when Kennedy tells Ruth they aren’t to mention anything related to racism during court, Ruth isn’t so sure if Kennedy is the right person to represent her…
Small Great Things is without doubt my new favorite Jodi Picoult novel, and I don’t think it will be easy to outdo this story. From the prose to the diverse, intriguing and well developed characters; from the well executed and important topic of racism to the very powerful message behind this story… Everything just points towards the fact that this story is a very important, powerful and brilliant modern take on such a complicated topic.