Published by Hodder and Stoughton on November 22nd 2016
When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.
Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.
It is about opening your eyes.
There’s something about Jodi Picoult. She can tackle any subject matter and make it her own. She forces you to look at things in a new light. She takes you down a certain path and just when you think you have a handle on things, she upends everything and throws you off balance. She doesn’t take the easy way out; she doesn’t seek to please the masses.
She writes like life, unpredictable, messy and beautiful.
Small Great Things is not a new story; it’s one that has been told countless times the world over. The setting and faces may change but the underlying truth remains the same. Though we are all human, some of us seek to keep others down and some of us simply keep our heads down while quietly benefiting from that fact.
Ruth Jefferson is a nurse in a New Haven hospital. She’s good at her job, well-liked, a devoted mother. Turk Bauer and his wife Brit are new parents, anxious, tired and full of love for their baby son. They also happen to be White Supremacists and Ruth happens to be Black. Because of skin colour, Ruth is deemed unworthy of taking care of their son and they demand she is removed from their case. Instead of standing with their employee, the hospital acquiesces to the demand. Ruth is removed from the case however when a simple procedure turns tragic and Ruth is the only nurse in the room when the Bauer baby goes into distress, her split-second hesitation results in accusations of both neglect and conspiracy and Ruth finds herself on trial. When middle-class, white public defender Kennedy McQuarrie takes Ruth’s case, she insists that race never be mentioned in the courtroom as a strategy for success. Both women are forced to tackle a lifetime’s worth of history, prejudice, insults and privilege in order to trust each other in the hopes of victory in court and redemption in life.
Small Great Things seeks to unsettle – I felt discomfort as I read and for that I am grateful. No matter your skin colour, cultural or ethnic background, Small Great Things will challenge you, it will cause you to recognise scenarios, comments, thoughts and actions that you may have (or certainly have) witnessed or taken part of, probably without a second thought.
The character development is stellar as always. The characters of Ruth, Turk and Kennedy are equally likeable and dislikeable. They are flawed, they have reasons, you may agree with their thoughts and actions, you may scream at their short-sightedness, their stupidity, you will cry with them, for them and rage against them. They will educate you. You will not always like it. You will feel grateful. You will think. You will hope.
It’s fiction, so there are moments that are too perfect for this world as much as we would wish otherwise, but overall this is a compelling, worthwhile and wonderful story. Highly recommend.