This book made me feel a lot of things. It’s a work of fiction with some pieces based loosely on a true incident.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is a story told by three characters: Ruth Jefferson, a black nurse, Turk Bauer, a white supremacist, and Kennedy McQuarrie, a lawyer who is defending Ruth.
From the beginning I knew this would be a tough book to read. The subject matter is not light.
Its parallels to today are uncanny.
When I read Turk’s chapters where things are told from his point of view, I could only think of the folks protesting stay at home orders with giant weapons, truly believing they’re doing the right thing. I’ve hated characters before, but this was a new feeling. Utter disgust, fear, and sadness that there are people in the world who believe this way.
Entering into Ruth’s story makes me think of all the injustices against black people in America. I’ve seen multiple murders caught on video that show up on my social media feed and calls to action to bring justice to them…but that’s just what we’re seeing.
Kennedy is forced to recognize her privilege and how despite “doing the right thing” and defending Ruth, she’s still part of the problem. Her journey is beautiful and made me realize a lot of things about myself.
This book is wonderful: great plot, interesting characters, etc., but the best part is how it made me think. I love works of fiction that expose something in the non-fiction world that we should be paying attention to. This book woke me up a little. I’ve still got work to do, a lot of it if I’m being totally honest, and I’m glad this book helped me see that.
I’m sure Jodi Picoult received a lot of mixed feedback on this book. Being a white author who writes about racism, and some from a black person’s perspective, is often not well-received. In her author’s note at the end of the book she addresses that, and all the conversations and research that led to this book entering the world.
This is an important read. If everything happening in the world right now has you overwhelmed, this may not be the right pick for you. Or maybe it is.
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