Title: Small Great Things
Author: Jodi Picoult
What's it about?
Ruth Jefferson is labor and delivery nurse who loves her job. She's got 20 years of experience and raising her teenaged son, mostly as a single mother. But all that is about to be taken away when a white supremacist and his like minded wife end up being assigned to Ruth, who happens to be black. Within minutes, Turk (the white supremacist) and his wife are determined to ensure that Ruth never touches their baby or them and, Ruth, offended and angry to be removed as their nurse, she's willing to comply...until she's left alone due to an emergency with another patient and the very baby she's not supposed to care for or even touch codes and she's forced to choose. Does she risk her job, the livelihood that cares for her own son, or do what the very thing she knows is the right thing. Either way, she's risking so much. It's a lose-lose situation.
Within days, she's lost her job and has to find a job that may embarrass her son, and she finds herself in jail and awaiting a trial for murder, of a child she was told not to touch or care for who coded when no one was around but here. Did she do the right thing? Is there a way to win this fight that has so many layers to it? Now she's questioning everything while Turk struggles to keep his wife together and find somewhere to direct his anger and Kenney, Ruth's lawyer is leaning what it means to be on her first big case while learning she doesn't know nearly as much as she thought she did about the world around her.
Favorite Character: Kennedy wins hands down, which, in some ways is kind of hard. Kennedy is my favorite becuase I relate to her better than anyone else in the book. I appreciated her evolution in understanding racism and the reality of it. I loved that she had to struggle with her own privilege and ideas that very much came from being a white woman who didn't want to be racist and who was taught that color blind was the best way to be not racist and having to come to terms with the reality of a life like Ruth's. I felt like watching her stumble though it all helped to open my eyes and help me see things I was trying to figure out but was also struggling.
Least Favorite Character: Many names come to mind when I think about this. My first reaction is Turk and Brit (Turk's wife) and Brit's father who happened to be one of the biggest names in the White Supremacist community. But, I think I'm going to say that if I have to choose one, it's Francis Mitchum, Brit's dad who I dislike the most. I think that's becuase we don't see his upbringing or how he ended up the way he did, but we do see glimpse of hypocrisy, which adds to my frustration with him.
Favorite Part: This is a hard one because the book was so heavy and really was a rollercoaster ride. But I think I'm going to go with closing statements.
Least Favorite Character: Most parts from Turk's perspective. I'll talk more about this latter but the hate his portion of the story spews is gross. I hate the racial slurs and the judgment and violence that is so prominent in his life. At points it literally made my stomach turn. I'm not going to lie, there were times when just seeing that the next chapter was a Turk chapter elicited an inward grown.
Favorite Quotes: There are so many.
"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." Benjamin Franklin (pg. 2) I just felt this was such poinet and relevant quote.
"It just goes to show you: every baby is born beautiful. It's what we project on them that makes them ugly." (pg. 11)
" When I tell this story, thy assume the miracle I am referencing to during that long-ago blizzard was the birth of a baby. True that was astonishing. But that day I witnessed a greater wonder. As Christina held my had and Ms. Mina Held Mama's, there was a moment one heartbeat, one breath-where all the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in a desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman helping another.
That miracle, I've spent thirty-nine years waiting to see again" (pg. 6) I reread this paragraph so many times just taking it in like air and reveling in the beauty of it and the sadness of it all at once.
"Ruth is quiet for a moment. 'True confession? The reason we don't talk about race is because we do not speak a common language.'" (pg. 265)
"Slavery isn't Black history." I point out. "It's everyone's history." (pg. 282) This hit close to home. Recently I was at a conference and I made comment about how it angered me that people act like slavery is more then a part of their history, but defines anyone who is black in America. One of the authors we were watching speak caught it and said, very nicely, something like "Interesting how we assign slavery to 'black history' and not American history or everyone's history." and I was hit with so much realization and embarrassment for being so naive and so ignorant to know that it's all of our history but talk like it's not. So, this comment hit a little close to home.
This book just flat out blew my mind. It was done so skillfully and evoked so much emotion and clarity for me, personally, that I may never recover. And I'm okay with that. I admire how Ms. Picoult succeeded in humanizing everyone in such an understandable way. Even Turk and Brit. So many times, I'd be reading Turk's POV and think, "Maybe he's not that bad" or "Awww. I could almost like him!" and then, on the very same page, he'd go and say something so vial and gross that I remembered why i couldn't like him at all. While, both Ruth and Kennedy had the opposite effect. While I generally liked them, there were a number of moments when they'd say or do something and I'd think, "Maybe I don't like you as much as I thought." only to read a little further and find myself remembering why I did like them and why I was fighting for them 100%. And, to me, that's a sign of great writing.
I also appreciated the complexity of the characters. All of them, even Ruth, were wrong AND right. They all had their arguments and moments when they were just wrong. Period. And it wasn't just once or twice, it was throughout the story. But then, they all, even Turk, had moments when they were right. Each character was human and real. Nothing was as simple as yes or no. They survived in the maybe. And I think it's that that made this story as powerful and emotional as it was, because there was noone to point to and say, "That's the villain! They are evil!" And there was no one to point to and say, "They're perfect. I will support them 100%" just like life.
In the process, I found words and understanding for my own struggles with being a child raised in a time when color blindness was the goal; when pretending that color doesn't matter is as good as it actually NOT making a difference in things like the justice system or how we think of people and their quality of individual. It was during this book that, for the first time I thought and understood that not being racist in general is not the same thing as understanding the experiences of those different then you. Not knowingly judging someone becuase of their differences is not the same thing as not having predjustes that you don't see if you don't actively look for them and, just because you believe in equality and equity among humans, doesn't mean that everyone else does. Some of these things I knew, but I still saw it through the lense for me. I felt like embracing the realities meant the same thing as being the problem. Getting to see the story from an outsiders perspective, it allowed me to realize that I might be part of the problem but I am sure to always be if I don't accept the reality of it. You can't change something you refuse to see.
So, yes, this book isn't perfect and it can be hard to read. There are racial slurs and some violent scenes but it had a profound impact on me and I am so thankful for that. I'm really glad I got this book in my hands and had the opportunity to read it.
I give this book a
But that's just me. What did you think about this book? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Let us know in the comments.