Last year I saw quite a few people review Small Great Things and the synopsis sounded right up my alley.
If you're lost and have no idea what the book is about, here's part of the synopsis:
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.
I started this on a Friday night and made it a little over 100 pages and didn't think I was going to be able to finish it. It was exhausting to read and I wasn't sure I wanted to read something so heavy on every single page. We all lived through 2016, we know hate groups are a real thing. A person seen as too racist to be a federal judge is our President's choice for attorney general.
I decided to skip to the end and read the author's note and it completely changed my mind about the book. It didn't make it any easier to read, but it reminded me why it was important. The first thing that caught my attention was that Ruth's story was actually inspired by a real case at the hospital where I was born, but more importantly Picoult acknowledges her white privilege and explains why she wanted to write this book, knowing the risk she was taking.
The story moved quickly and the writing was captivating as you're introduced to the different characters (the POV switches in each chapter between Ruth, Kennedy, & Turk). I could quickly see why so many people are big Picoult fans. In the first part of the book I wasn't crazy about the storylines with Ruth's sister or Kennedy's mom. I know they were purposeful to Picoult in showing further dimensions of racial inequalities, assumptions, and passive racism, but with so much already going on, I didn't think it was necessary and it felt forced.
The second part of the story is when the trial begins and I was so relieved to hear Kennedy finally address all of the things that had been overlooked with Ruth being unfairly blamed for the baby's death. I was infuriated with Ruth's co-worker and supervisor, and until that point it saddened me that no one was questioning their competence. The parts with the trial read extremely quickly and then there were two things that happened towards the ending that left me frustrated with the novel (i'll leave out to avoid spoilers, but if you've read this, I'd love to know your thoughts if you know what I'm referring to).
While this wasn't even a five-star book for me, I'd still recommend it. In the author's note Picoult says that one of the reasons she wrote the book because the things that make us uncomfortable are often the things that teach us, and I couldn't agree more. For me, as a white person, it was also a great reminder that staying silent about things is a privilege, and it's so important to stand up for what is right. I know I fall short sometimes, but I think that's part of the reason it was so important for me to share my feelings about this book.