I received a copy of Small Great Things in exchange for an honest review
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Martin Luther King
I’ve been a fan of Jodi Picoult for years, but her more recent novels have been a little hit and miss for me. With Small Great Things she’s back on form doing what she’s best at; it’s an emotional tale wrapped around a tense, high profile court case with controversial, hard-hitting topic at its heart.
Ruth is an experienced labour and delivery nurse; she’s been doing her job well for 20 years without incident. She also happens to be black. And the stable life she’s built for herself all changes when the baby of a white supremacist dies while in her care. Suddenly, Ruth finds herself on trial for murder.
The story is narrated by Ruth, the white supremacist father Turk and Ruth’s lawyer, Kennedy. Perhaps it would have been easier to narrate the entire tale from Ruth’s point of view – whom we’re all rooting for – but the three different perspectives serve to offer contrast, showing the many different shades of the issue. I found it difficult to read some of Turk’s chapters, and yet I was intrigued to read about how people can come to these absurd conclusions, and the twisted, cult mentality the ‘Movement’ encourages, from random attacks on the street to parties celebrating Hitler’s birthday. It was equally fascinating and horrifying, and it’s clear that Picoult has done her research.
Jodi Picoult has long had a knack for picking up sensitive, controversial issues and twisting a hard-hitting tale around them with skill and sensitivity. I’ve enjoyed many of her novels which do this, but they haven’t all hit home as much as this one. The way she tackles racism in Small Great Things is relatable and applicable to everyone, whatever your views may be. She explores not just active racism but passive racism; white people enjoying privileges they don’t even realise they receive. I’d never before even considered the shade of ‘skin-coloured’ plasters, or the ease I have finding a foundation to match my skin with the plethora of shades available on the market. It’s a brave topic to talk about, and she does it with aplomb.
“Sure, it’s so much easier to see the headwinds of racism, the ways that people of color are discriminated against… It’s a little harder to see – and own up to – the tailwinds of racism, the ways that those of us who aren’t people of color have benefited just because we’re white.”
This novel wasn’t without flaw – the twist at the ending was a little farfetched, and the final chapter gets a little too preachy and perfect, but I enjoyed it all and I was gripped throughout. And more than that, it made me think. This author has a habit of writing page-turning stories which get to the heart of an issue, and throw it wide open.