QBD Reviews: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

9781760110499

This is a very thought provoking novel, based on a true event. Jodi Picoult talks about social justice, racism, white supremacy and the legal system in America. “Small Great Things” is an uncomfortable read, yet brings out all sorts of emotions in the reader. I am still not sure if I liked this novel, yet I had to finish it.

Ruth Jefferson is a person of colour working as a Labour and Delivery nurse at a busy hospital. She has twenty years of experience and loves her job – it is a calling.

Turk and Brittanny Bauer are white supremacists (known as skinheads in the 1970’s and 80’s) they have just had their first baby and are outraged when Ruth is the nurse to look after mother and baby at change of shift. They both refuse to have any “Black” person touch their baby. A supervisor is called and a note put in the baby’s file. Ruth is the only person of colour working on the ward.

When the tragic loss of baby Davis Bauer after minor routine surgery leads the distraught parents to blame someone, Ruth becomes a scapegoat. There was a team of medical staff trying to resuscitate the baby, yet only one of them was being charged with murder by the grieving parents.

Kennedy McQuarrie, a white woman and a public defender, is chosen to represent Ruth in court. It takes Ruth a while to trust her but after some time the two women become friends and Kennedy fights tooth and nail to get Ruth home to her son.

Many perspectives were aired in the telling of this story. Readers feel indignation and outrage at how Ruth was treated – by her co-workers, the hospital staff, patient’s family, and the legal system. Hearing about the indoctrination of the white supremacists (starting at children’s birthday parties) was eye-opening. It was also very interesting hearing from the lawyer defending the case in court, and all the work done in the background to mount a defense.

Kerryn, QBD Northland