New book intrigues readers


When most people think of racist America, they think of a time when simple facilities like bathrooms and water fountains were segregated, white people would get priority of seating on the bus and children of color were expected to go to a different school than the children with lighter skin. Most people don’t think of late 2015/early 2016, when the book “Small Great Things” takes place. Written by Jodi Picoult, the same author who wrote “My Sister’s Keeper,” this book was released in mid October 2016. I hadn’t heard she was releasing a book, but this story was probably one of my favorite’s of the year.

“Small Great Things” is about a labor and delivery nurse names Ruth Johnson. She has had her job for 22 years when, one day, she goes to help a husband and wife, Turk and Brittany Bauer, who had just given birth to their son, Davis. When they see her, they get mad and ask to speak to her supervisor. Eventually a post-it note is placed on the family’s file that says “No African American personnel to care for this patient.” They try to tell Ruth it’s nothing personal, but she is the only nurse of color in the hospital.

After a few days, Davis is circumcised, which means that he has to be watched in case excessive bleeding occurs. The other two nurses are on duty and one of them, the one that was supposed to watch Davis, tells Ruth to watch him. Something happens and Davis goes into a critical condition, and Ruth is forced to make a choice: does she follow her orders and not help the child, or does she break the rules and possibly save the child’s life? Because Ruth hesitates, the child dies and she faces criminal charges. A lawyer named Kennedy McQuarrie decides to help Ruth in the case, learning more about herself and other people as she goes.

This book is told from three points of view: Ruth’s, Turk’s and Kennedy’s. I found it fascinating to read the book because the reader sees into the minds of a person of color being charged for a crime because she is of color, a white supremacist who believes he is of the superior race (and acts like it) and a white lawyer who isn’t consciously racist but insists on not bringing up race in the courtroom. The book shows the five months between Davis’ birth and the trial through the eyes of these three characters with constant plot twists.

If you’ve read “My Sister’s Keeper,” you know about Picoult’s writing style. There were a lot of surprises as the book went on, and the ending had something I never expected. The characters were all well developed, even down to Ruth’s coworkers who are barely present in the story.

“Small Great Things” wasn’t just a well-written book, but it really made me think. I’ve known racism isn’t completely gone, but this book put it into a new perspective for me. It talks about (and shows) all the ways our society is still very racist. Kennedy, after hearing what happened in the moment between Ruth and Davis, tells Ruth they should not talk about race in the courtroom. Ruth is shocked because, from her point of view (which is correct), she wouldn’t be the center of the case if race was irrelevant and that it should be talked about in the courtroom. As that plays out, Kennedy, and all the others involved, learn about a perspective they haven’t seen before.

All in all, this was another great book by Picoult that really made me question my basic morality questions and think about society. If you’re looking for a book to really consider and pay attention to while reading, this would be the book for you. It’s one of my new favorite books, and I will certainly be rereading it.