Small Great Things
By Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books, 9780345544971, February 2018, 528pp.
The Short of It:
This is a book that will fire you up and make you angry but it’s also a great book to discuss.
The Rest of It:
A good friend suggested Small Great Things to me after I read Just Mercy. Before the “safer at home” orders, I bought a copy of the book but then I sat on it because with the quarantine and all, I had such a hard time focusing on reading that a book, heavy with race themes, didn’t seem like a book I wanted to reach for. But, I promised her I’d read it and I finally did.
Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse, a graduate of Yale with twenty years experience in the field. As she tends to a young mother who has just given birth, and begins to assess the infant, she is asked by the parents to step away from the child. Shortly afterward, her supervisor explains that the parents do not want a black nurse tending to their son and places a Post-it note in the child’s file, saying so. Although it’s explained to Ruth that parents make special requests all the time and that this is no different, Ruth is the only black nurse in the unit and feels that this is a personal attack against her.
After the child experiences a medical emergency, and Ruth is the only nurse available to tend to him, she’s not sure what to do. Care for the infant in an attempt to save him or follow the orders that she’s been given?
This was a really great read. Timely. As I was finishing the final pages the news about Ahmaud Arbery came to light and it made me all the more angry while reading. Small Great Things speaks of injustice but also touches on white supremacy and the rise of it. It’s a tough pill to swallow and you will hate some of these characters. I suppose that’s a testament to Picoult’s writing because these characters smacked of hate and I did not want to spend any time with them.
That said, this would make a fabulous book club read because there is so much to discuss. Ruth is also a widowed mother, caring for her college-bound son so her choices directly impact her son and his ability to continue his education. Have you read it? If not, definitely add it to your list.
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