Sunday, March 12, 2017

small great things by Jodi Picoult

small great things by Jodi Picoult

My rating: * * * * * 5/5 stars

Summary: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.

My Review: About two years ago I really got into Jodi Picoult as an author and read all the books by her that I could get my hands on.  My life got really complicated for awhile and I'll admit I backed way off on reading her books for the simple reason of I wasn't in a place where reading books that had such controversial issues and sometimes sad endings was something I could handle easy because of all the stress and turmoil I was dealing with in my own life.  However when I saw this relatively new book by her at Half Price Books it really caught my eye because it looked like a story and topic that I was interested in learning more about; and I knew that Picoult was a great writer and that there was a slim to none chance that I wouldn't really like the book.  I was right the book kept me as a reader very involved in the story and not wanting to put the novel down even to eat or sleep.

Small great things tells the story of Ruth Jefferson an african american nurse  (who works in the labor and delivery wing of a small hospital) who gets accused of negligence/murder when a baby she isn't supposed to touch or treat (at the wishes of his skin head white supremacist parents) goes into cardiac arrest while Ruth is alone with him because everyone else is called to an emergency surgery.  Though Ruth and her colleagues do their best to resuscitate  the infant he doesn't make it and his parents and grandfather looking for revenge for the death of their first child/grandchild go to the police and say that they think Ruth intentionally let the baby die because she was mad at being dismissed as the infants nurse because of her skin color.

The results of their talk with the police is Ruth being drawn up on murder/neglect charges and the reader goes along with Ruth through her trial, and all the events surrounding it.  I enjoyed Ruth as a character because her personality is similar to mine, and when the book described how she felt she had to become someone she wasn't to 'fit in' in the  mostly white neighborhood where she was raising her son; and at the hospital on the labor and delivery floor where she was the only African American nurse who worked there.  Of course I am not African American I am caucasian so I DO NOT claim that I have any idea what its like dealing with the same issues that Ruth did such as prejudice and racism.  But I do know on a different scale what its like to not fit in somewhere and to put on an act or show to be able to fit in, in a situation where something about me does not fit in with the expectations or norms of the people around me.  

The book was written from three different viewpoints.  Ruth's of course,  Turk, the white supremacist father's viewpoint and Ruth's lawyer Kennedy's viewpoint.  I liked that you could see how different their interpretations of what was happening were.  It gave me as a reader the chance to look into the minds of each character and come away with more of an understanding of what the author wanted to say through writing this novel.  Having three viewpoints instead of just a narrative of what the main character thought and did made this book easier to connect with and gave more honesty and openness to the book that I enjoyed.

This book was not a 'comfortable' read especially in the latter part; where it touches on racism and prejudice, and not just the overt confederate flag waving kind; the kind that caucasian people might be displaying without even knowing it because they have accepted stereotypes about others subconsciously whether they know it or not; and this type of racism/prejudice can be seen in examples like a white woman who moves her purse closer when a black man comes to stand beside her at a bus stop or when a caucasian family locks their car doors when passing through a majority African American community.  The caucasian individuals may not be doing these things as hate crimes or overt acts of racism; but they are still actions that are harmful to minority communities because of what they imply. 

I know as a reader that even reading about these things and how white people don't often acknowledge them outright made me think about my own actions and wonder if I was guilty of some of these qualities.  This novel changed how I think and made me as a reader open my mind to different viewpoints and how I could live in a different way that viewed caucasians not as the saviors of african americans in need but as someone who could acknowledge that racism/prejudice is still very real even in 2017.  I can never claim to have the same experiences and deal with the prejudice that African Americans face daily; but I can acknowledge that its still happening and that we as a country need to try to find ways of defeating it; so that everyone in the United States can say that across all racial, socioeconomic and religious boundaries everyone has the same rights and the same opportunities to succeed and fulfill their dreams.

The content of this book and what the story was based around; the death of a newborn made it an emotional and painful read at times.  But the writing style, characters, and plot were very well written and I would definitely recommend it to fellow readers.  It will challenge you as a person and as a reader but it is well worth it in the end; because you come out the other side with a broader viewpoint and the ability to empathize with the struggles facing minorities in our modern society.

Jodi Picoult is still one of my favorite authors and this book is my favorite of hers so far.  I'm glad she has the courage to write about an issue that is so controversial with the dignity and respect that it deserves.  In the acknowledgements and the author's note Picoult says she wrote the book to try to open people's minds and get them to acknowledge that racism/prejudice still exists and that even though its uncomfortable to talk about we still need to address it in our communities and strive for a world where everyone is truly equal and free.

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