Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I usually find Picoult's books to be thought-provoking, and in a way this one was, too, but there were things about this book that can't get me past a simple, "I liked it" 3 stars. I can't say I REALLY liked it or that it was amazing. Let me explain why.
First of all, there are three main perspectives, and each one is a stereotype, one-dimensional in characterization. There is Ruth, the black labor and delivery nurse who went to prestigious schools including Yale, paid for by her mom's employer. She is the quintessential black character who doesn't "act black" and occasionally gets called out on it. She gets asked not to touch a white baby at her job, and something unimaginable happens.
The next one is a do-gooder public defender who ends up asking to take Ruth's case yet refuses to mention race which was clearly the reason for the debacle she is in. Kennedy, the attorney, claims she doesn't see color, then toward the end of the book claims she can see her own white privilege getting in the way.
Then there is the white supremacist couple who ask the hospital not to put their baby with an African-American nurse or doctor.
Ruth is thrown into an emergency situation where she MUST watch the baby, and shortly thereafter, the baby has complications. The white supremacists think she did something, but of course, she is just a scapegoat. Each of these characters are one-dimensional. They are role players in the story.
Next, the title comes from a quote by Martin Luther King that says, "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." I don't feel like the title fit the story.
Also Jodi Picoult is a white woman writing from the perspective of a black woman, and not really doing a great job with it. This annoyed me. It is not easy to put yourself in the shoes of someone else whose life has gone completely opposite of your own.
It is supposed to become a movie staring Viola Davis as Ruth and Julia Roberts as Kennedy the Attorney, and I would love to watch that, but I sure hope it moves more quickly than the book. If anything, I questioned my own attitudes about the topics presented in the novel, so that's a good thing. But I also don't feel like Picoult accurately gave the African American viewpoint and it was very presumptuous of her to try. I cannot claim to know how to write from a POV of a black person.
I kept reading and reading thinking there would be this great climax to the story, but I was disappointed. I enjoyed 19 Minutes, My Sister's Keeper, House Rules, and A Spark of Light much better.
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