Welcome to this week’s edition of:
Jared’s Totally Unsolicited And Completely Subjective Review Of: Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult. I know most of you #bookstagrammers have probably read this already, so I’m excited to hear your thoughts too!
Background: This is slightly embarrassing to admit – but perhaps apropos as it relates to the subject matter – it occurred to me that I hadn’t read a novel by a female author in probably my whole adult life, so I wanted to expand my horizons. (I’d read some non-fiction in the last few years by women authors, just not a novel. To be fair to everyone however, my reading list over the past couple years pretty much omitted anyone other than some guy named Stephen King).
Jodi Picoult came highly recommended, and when I joined #bookstagram I saw this title several times. So there you have it!
Synopsis (straight from the book jacket, shortened for space): “Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse 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?”
So what did this Ol’ Reader think?
Overall, I loved it. Obviously the subject matter wasn’t easy, tackling racism, death, life, hope, and love. It was a heavier read than what I’m used to (call me shallow if need be, but usually when I lay my head down at night I want to dive into an easy alternative universe), so this read challenged me on several fronts. But all at once your ol’ pal Jerry is happy to have his beliefs, assumptions, and ideas challenged, and hopefully changed for the better. I don’t know that I came away from the book with any fundamental ideas changed, per se – in all the societal change I’ve been fortunate to see in my short lifetime, I hope to live to an age where prejudice based on race, gender, appearance, abilities, or who we love is as much an instructive and distant memory as reflecting on those societies who believed the world was flat, or that thunder came from drunken and squabbling gods.
The book still challenged me, however, much like the lawyer Kennedy McQuarrie finds her own assumptions and approaches to race challenged. “Coincidentally” (I put that in quotations because I never really believe there are random accidents like this), I was in a meeting during the days of reading this title, and we were doing an assessment of sorts. One of the questions was along the lines of “do we provide an open and welcoming environment for individuals from diverse backgrounds?” (That’s not verbatim and I probably messed it up somehow, but that was the essence of it.) When it came time for my input – this book fresh in my mind – I said “I’m a 40-year-old straight white male. So for me to say ‘Yes I think we are open and welcoming’… well, how do I know? Where are my blind spots? What do I not see?” Which was probably not the non-answer answer the group was looking for, but it’s what they got out of me that day, thanks to Small Great Things.
Stylistically is was an easy-flowing read, and I particularly enjoyed the alternating first-person narratives of the three main characters. Ms. Picoult also offered several beautifully written passages and quotable lines I couldn’t resist throwing onto my IG stories. And I dare say, she somehow magically managed to fling sawdust from the pages into my eyes a couple of times, which also apparently caused an allergic swelling/lump in my throat at the same time. 😉
I don’t know that I overly loved the final plot-twists and ending (you’ll find no overt spoilers here, friend!); it was a little too Hollywood-fix-it-all-up-by-the-end for me. But maybe I’m just too used to Mr. King – and by and large the books I seem to read in general – where things don’t always (in fact, rarely) work out perfectly, and that suits me just fine. Other than that, a fine read, and I’ll look forward to the next time I’m acquainted with Ms. Picoult’s words. Recommendations welcome!