Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Last week I finished reading a wonderful book. When we think about the troubles we have on this earth in this day and age it makes you wonder whether we have progressed at all or do we still live in the past, never to learn the lessons from lives endured!
I must say I am a great fan of Jodi Picoult, her books are always well researched and full of insight into the problems faced by many. In Small Great Things she has excelled yet again. A book full of thought provoking moments told in the words of three very different people.
This book is about race, society, class and humanity.
This is the story of Ruth Jefferson, a very experienced Labour and Delivery nurse who has spent her whole life becoming the person she thinks she should be. She is African American. Then there is Turk Bauer a white supremacist, married with a baby on the way and Kennedy McQuarrie, a public defender overrun by work in the court system but also somewhat privileged in her lifestyle.
All of these lives will entwine in a way you would never want. And racism bares its ugly head yet again. Has the African American Labour and Delivery nurse with so many years’ experience really made an error in judgement? Does Kennedy McQuarrie take on the case for all the right reasons and can the human race really be so racist and narrow minded when it comes to people of different nationalities? Yes all this and more!
Stage One – Early Labour
Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
This sums it all up and as you read this tiny little quote at the beginning of this book you just know this story will tug at your heart strings. And it does on so many levels. From the start you get a picture of Ruth’s life as a youngster and again at differing stages of her life. She was born from a wonderful mother, went through trials and tribulations but came out the other side with a loving family and a good job.
Ruth is an excellent nurse doing as she would normally do on any given day when a newborn comes on the scene in the maternity ward. But Turk and his wife Brittany don’t want their baby treated by a woman of colour. It is against their beliefs. Ruth is given another patient and the day continues. But this is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning. The Bauer baby dies but is anyone at fault?
But when it all goes horribly wrong Ruth is faced with a murder trial, a white public defender, a son who becomes confused with life, a sister who just wants to draw the race card and the racist couple whose baby died supposedly at the hands of Ruth Jefferson. As the trial proceeds relationships change. Ruth has to learn to trust her lawyer, Kennedy McQuarrie, who in turn has to learn about the life of an African American woman and her family. Kennedy also comes to realise the reason she took the case at the beginning ends up being different than how she feels at the end.
And Turk Bauer, the husband, the dad, the white supremacist. He wants nothing to do with the African American nurse who is assigned to look after his wife and baby and he lets the hospital know his feelings. With his views and his tattoos you wouldn’t really expect anything different and even from the start most people would have a feeling of dislike for this person. This is how he and Brittany were brought up. Don’t they know better? Maybe not!
Your feelings will come to the surface, there will be anger, annoyance, disbelief. How can people feel hatred towards others just because of their skin colour. This should not happen but we know it does. A death has occurred but is it murder? This will be decided in the trial, a trial that brings many emotions and feelings to the surface, brings people together, breaks people apart and brings with it all the problems our society tries to hide away, swept under the carpet..
Small Great Things is a well written book, you can’t read it without feeling remorse, regret, anxiety. It is a story that makes you think about your own life and the people around you. How do you treat others, those that are different from you, that have different views, ideas and beliefs? How can we change people’s way of thinking and how can we all live as one and be happy and caring? Is it too big of an ask? This is a story about people and Jodi Picoult is in no way telling us she knows what it feels like being discriminated against for the colour of your skin or being a skin head who is filled with hatred for anyone who isn’t white but she has done her homework and she tells the story well.
Throughout this novel we learn about each of the characters, their lives, their upbringings and there ethics. This helps us to cope with the storyline and the subject but also helps us to feel!
One of my favourite quotes came on page 342, during the trial when a colleague of Ruth’s is on the stand. Things happen (I don’t want to give too much away) and Ruth starts thinking about the truth. “There is no such thing as a fact. There is only how you saw the fact, in a given moment.” This is so poignant as we all see things differently but this can have an effect on the outcome of events such as a trial for murder.
This is a great novel, a great story, written by a great author. I truly recommend you read it. It will bring out every emotion and feeling you have ever felt but best of all it makes you think!
” If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Dr. Martin Luther King