Author Jodi Picoult is not known for writing simple or easy things. She writes with empathy and paints fairly realistic and unflinching portraits of the lives of her characters. Her latest, Small Great Things, delves deep into a complicated subject, and the length at nearly 500 pages reflects that.
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital in Connecticut, where she has worked for the last 20 years. During her shift one day in the middle of a checkup on a newborn she is suddenly reassigned elsewhere. The newborn’s parents are white supremacists and Ruth is African American. The hospital has complied with the parents’ request, but the next day when Ruth is temporarily working alone the baby goes into cardiac arrest. Ruth hesitates before performing CPR on the infant, and as a result is charged with a serious crime. This happens in the first quarter of the novel and the rest is divided into alternating chapters from different characters as they proceed through a court trial.
In an afterward, Jodi Picoult admits that as a white person growing up among privileged circumstances this subject was difficult to approach. However, after trying to write on the same topic 20 years ago, she finally stopped approaching the problem of inherent racism from the marginalized point of view and tells most of the story through the white supremacist antagonist point of view. The trial in the book, and even the content throughout are left without a preachy message; instead the reader is lead on a journey to think for themselves.
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