“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S Lewis
July has come to a close and August is about to begin, where is 2019 going? It only feels like yesterday that I was welcoming the new year in with my husband and our friends with one too many Cassandra cocktails. My love for reading has recently been reignited and for that reason I’ve decided to add a new feature to my blog; my favourite “book of the month”, starting with Jodi Picoult – Small Great Things.
Jodi Picoult is possibly my favourite author of this day. I have read every single novel she has published and every single one has made me laugh, cry and question things in my own life. Whilst the stories often focus on highly sensitive subjects such as rape, cancer and racism, Jodi’s characters are always so intricately thought out and created that it is impossible not to feel like you personally know them. Small Great Things centres around three main characters, a white supremacist, a lawyer and foremost, a black midwife in America.
When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not. Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.
It is about opening your eyes.
Small Great Things is about the life of black midwife, Ruth Jefferson. After finding herself looking after the newborn baby of white supremacists, Turk and Brittany Bauer, for the first time in her medical career she is stopped from caring for a baby because of the colour of her skin. When an unexpected turn means that the baby passes away, Ruth finds herself as suspect in a murder trial and in the hands of her white public defender, Kennedy McQuarrie. The rhetoric is this: race should not be mentioned in a courtroom, even when it is abundantly clear that race is the reason you’re in it.
Picoult has clearly done her research. In fact there are pages to the rear of the book outlining just how much research she has done, telling the reader just why she is almost qualified to write this book. Picoult has covered topics of great controversy over the years; it was to be expected that racism was one to cross off the list. However, it is to be questioned whether she had almost done too much research, whether the characters were almost beyond stereotypical. Turk’s white supremacy was as though a character from 1950 had been plummeted into the 21st century, Kennedy was of course a white, middle class woman with the fantastic husband and the golden child, whilst Ruth was a single-mum (albeit a war widower) with a maid for a mother, desperate to fit into a world of white privilege. If you have seen the Netflix series Dear White People, you will perhaps understand where I am coming from. Picoult highlights racism from an angle a white person would never understand, explaining situations where you would perhaps say “it’s not racism”, when in fact it is. However, in one book Picoult has drawn attention to almost every racial issue there is, raising awareness whilst swamping you with it all at the same time.
The way in which Picoult deals with Turk Bauer, Small Great Things’ white suprematist and his wife Brittany is fantastic. Whilst the character is somewhat outdated and reads as though from a different century, his emotions and the telling of his story is raw and unapologetic. It is hard not to sympathise with their situation; the loss of a child is something nobody should ever have to endure. His hatred for the non-Aryan race has been fuelled by a back story; the loss of a brother where an African American man was blamed and the consequential destruction of his family, which has developed into an incessant hatred and prejudice. He is perhaps the most interesting character in the entire novel. His story is lead by grief, the inexplicable turmoil as a result of losing his son, his wife and her downward spiral as a result. It is impossible not to feel this man’s heartache, the reminder that this man is human, so much so that you are taken aback when you are reminded of his startling beliefs.
Small Great Things is a wonderfully written novel; you are hooked by page 2. A dramatic start building to a tense, constantly on tenterhooks middle. The novel reminds one of To Kill A Mockingbird. From the way Ruth and Kennedy were portrayed, the trials closing statement by the defence, it screamed ‘Harper Lee’ from the word go. A slightly unoriginal storyline, a black person accused by a white person of a heinous crime and the white public defender tries to save the day. It’s almost deja vu.
It almost feels as though the middle ends just prior to the last 3 pages. The ending felt rushed, semi expected and almost a bit of an anticlimax. There was too much of a twist to be believable, which slightly ruins the tone of the entire novel. In a novel that rings true with the reality of American life, it’s questionable as to whether the ending did the story, and those who live with this daily injustice, any favours at all.
It is undeniable that this is a fantastic novel and Picoult has once again created an impeccable piece of work. A novel that had my head buried in it from the word go, it’s message was well and truly heard. I must say, I have never read a bad book with Picoult’s name on the front. Small Great Things will certainly be a book she is remembered for and a book I recommend to anyone and everyone who wants one.
You can buy Small Great Things here.
I have 3 books lined up for August so keep your eyes peeled for August’s book of the month!
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Love, Amber x