Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
I’ve only read one of Jodi Picoult’s novels, The Storyteller and was an instant fan of her work. Nearly two and a half years after reading The Storyteller I started Small Great Things.
Ruth is a midwife with over twenty years of experience so initially Brit and Turk seemed like any other new parents until she is told by her manager that the couple have requested that no black nurses are involved in the care of their son, Davis.
Hurt and shocked, Ruth honours their wishes until she left in a position where no one else is on the ward and she is forced to care for Davis who has just come back from being circumcised. Ruth checks on him and finds him struggling to breathe and turning blue. Time stands still as she wonders what to do – honour the parents’ wishes or act on her nursing instinct. She does the latter and soon a crash team come in but to no avail.
Davis’s death really gets to Ruth and it comes back to haunt her when her nursing licence is suspended as Brit and Turk decide to press murder charges against Ruth.
Brit and Turk are part of the white power movement, where they believe white Christians are the superiors. Turk even has Nazi tattoos all over him which poses the question would they have pressed charges if the nurse looking after their son was white? Some of their views are absolutely sickening and are not for the faint hearted.
Alternating between Ruth’s point of view and Turk’s is Kennedy’s, an up and coming lawyer who takes on Ruth’s case. What Kennedy and the reader learn is the wonderfulness of Ruth. All her life she has had to fight because she is black. She’s fought to be a midwife, to raise her son with values and now she’s fighting for her life. What never diminishes is Ruth’s honour. To keep her house throughout the trial she works in McDonalds, she encourages Edison to keep studying and she initially tells police she did not touch Davis for fear of being in trouble with the hospital. She fights Kennedy when she’s on the stand in court to say she did touch Davis and did everything she could to save the babies life.
Kennedy begs with Ruth not to turn the case about race but by the spending time with Ruth, realises this is exactly what the case is about.
What really got me thinking was is this really how great the racial divide is between some communities in America? Ruth notes she is followed by security guards in shops because she is black – in the twenty first century do people really still think this way?
What I love about Picoult is the way she writes with such passion and conviction. I totally believe what she is saying and she makes you feel as though you have known the characters for years. She writes about both sides of the racial divide with such flair and knowledge. My only criticism – and this isn’t a criticism of the novel or Picoult but the American justice system is ten times as hard to get your head around than the British one, therefore some of the systems and legal jargon mentioned went completely over my head.
So, I’ll be off now to browse Picoult’s list of novels to see which one to enjoy next.