Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things Jodi Picoult

033.JPG

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.

034.JPG

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?

035.JPG

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.

Advertisements

The Best Book I Read in 2016

The best book I read in 2016 was undoubtedly A Little Life by Hanya Yanagiha, nothing came close! Ever since I’ve read it I cannot stop thinking about Jude (what is it with the characters called Jude and their woebegone nature). For me the description of the characters made the book. They were constantly evolving and the way they make you felt was as though they were friends you had known all your life. Throughout the whole book I was hoping for the best outcome for Jude but alas it wasn’t to be. Here’s my review from when I read it in the summer…

 

103.JPG

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

It’s been a while since my last post and I actually finished reading this book 3 weeks ago – shock. What with going on holiday, getting engaged and then coming back to the endless emails at work the past few weeks have been a huge whirlwind. But I am happy to report I kept thinking about A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara on and off since I finished the last page.

104.JPG
A Little Life (an ironic title by the way) is one of my favourite kinds of books, it weaves the lives of four characters and their love through over a forty year period. The book predominately focuses on Jude, a man who has endured more than most in his early years. Then there’s Willem, a successful actor and all round nice guy, JB a flamboyant and selfish artist and Malcolm a straight laced architect. All four boys meet at college and became extremely close but inevitably as life goes on their lives go in separate directions albeit they try to keep in contact as much as possible.

If you’re looking for a nice little tale this ain’t it. From the off we know that Jude is extremely sensitive and rather reserved and half way through the book we learn why. Given up for adoption as a child Jude finds himself in a convent and is regularly beaten for infinite things. One leader, Father Luke, takes a particular liking to Jude and promises him he can break free of his current life. With no reason to doubt him Jude runs away with Father Luke who shockingly is a pedophile and not only has sex with Jude but pimps Jude out to men and even gangs.

After months of promising Jude that once he’s earned enough to build a house in the forest the sex can stop, the police catch up with them but before they do Father Luke hangs himself in the bathroom of the motel in which they are staying. Jude was not even a teenager. From here he’s taken to a boarding school where again he’s abused, once he’s run away from there he hitchhikes lifts from truck drivers to the middle of nowhere again being abused in the process as he knows no different. The final straw is when he’s taken in by a rather odd psychologist sure enough to the cycle starts again and Jude becomes all he’s ever known. But his ordeal doesn’t stop until the crazy psychologist runs him over, causing physical damage that lasts a lifetime.

105.JPG

Miraculously he makes it to college and goes on to be one of the most successful lawyers in New York. Working often all day and night, this becomes Jude’s way of not thinking about his past as well as his constant self-harming which he’s often taken too far resulting in neat suicide.

Jude issurrounded by a network of people including his adoptive parents Harold and Julia, Jude’s former college lecturer, Malcolm, intermittently JB, Andy his physio, a constant companion and of course Willem. But Jude even finds it hard to trust them.
Jude begins a relationship with Willem late into their friendship which is wonderfully described with such tenderness and compassion but Jude’s past rears its head again and is unable to conduct the physical side of their relationship.

106.JPG

*spoiler alert*

But happiness in Jude’s life doesn’t last for long. Willem, along with Malcolm and his wife Sophie are killed in a car crash which plunges Jude into despair. He manages to get through each day by knowing he’s surrounded by Willem’s things and wills himself to live as he knows that’s what Willem would have wanted.

In the last section of the book it opens from Harold’s perspective and I assumed he was talking about Willem’s death, who he also saw as a son, he’s in fact taking about Jude. Jude inevitably gets what he wants which is to be out of this world.

107

Given the content of the book, it’s written with such tenderness and thought. Sadly Jude cannot seem to see further than his past and he can’t reciprocate the love his strong network of supporters give him. I would even go as far as saying this is the most beautifully written book I have read in years. I urge everyone to read it.