Saturday, 19 November 2016

Book Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family - especially her teenage son - as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other's trust, and come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others - and themselves - might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion - and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.


Image: Hodder & Stoughton
I first received a copy of this book via Hodder's #ReadWithoutPrejudice campaign. The aim was simple - to read the book and judge it purely on its own merits as a story. We were given no cover or title, or even told who the author was - merely the book in its simplest form. 

I should mention at this point that a lot of my fellow book bloggers guessed the identity of the author before Hodder told us who it was. However, I didn't have a clue so finished the book as blind as I was when I started it, in that respect. (I have an inkling that was largely due to the fact that this was surprisingly the first Jodi Picoult book I've ever read!) 

But, regardless of that, I think the #ReadWithoutPrejudice campaign was a massive success. It got people talking about the book, sharing ideas and theories, plus it fits perfectly with the themes of the book itself. Whichever member of the marketing team at Hodder came up with this idea should definitely be given a pay rise this year! 

Picoult is known for not being afraid to tackle serious, complex, and extremely difficult and delicate topics in her novels. And out of all the tricky topics there are to write about, racial prejudice and privilege are surely some of the thorniest. Society has a tendency to shy away from any mention of racism, which is the very attitude that Picoult outlines and aims to address with Small Great Things.

If you don't feel uncomfortable or start to question your own thoughts, beliefs and ideals while reading this book, I honestly don't know what would make you uncomfortable. It's not only the fact that we are introduced to such incredibly hypocritical and close-minded viewpoints which is worrying - what's even scarier is the fact that there are still people out there who genuinely believe these things in the real world today. 

Small Great Things is the story of one black woman's fight against racial prejudice - though Ruth Jefferson's struggle is one that will surely resonate with people of colour around the world. And for that reason, this book contains one of the most honest and unflinching accounts of race and colour in America today. You won't read a more thought-provoking book this year.

Rating: 3 stars

Small Great Things is available to pre-order now.

Will you be reading the book? What are your thoughts? Share them with me in the comments below! 

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