If you have been a reader of current fiction in the past 25 years, author Jodi Picoult has a name you certainly recognize. She has written novels about almost every modern issue, and all have been recognized for their strong plots and well-developed characters.
But, Small Great Things is by far the best of her books, in my and other's opinions. Picoult has clearly written a "labor of love," full of research and insights and understanding. I will call it a "must-read" for anyone who likes modern fiction.
Ruth Jefferson has been a well-respected OB nurse for 20 years. But, when a couple of white supremacists arrive for the birth of their son, they refuse to let Ruth, who is African American, touch their newborn. Emergencies arise, and Ruth happens to be in the room when their brand new son dies, from unknown causes.
Those familiar with Picoult's books will know there is often a courtroom segment and plenty of suspense. One major character here is a young public defender Kennedy McQuarrie, who feels confident that she "does not see color." Thus, she feels certain that she can mount a fair defense for Ruth for the baby's murder, even in this racially-charged environment.
The third main characters are the white supremacist father and his equally-racist wife. One of the author's successes is a fair, and possibly sympathetic, portrayal of these young parents. It's evident that some of Picoult's thorough research has been into the backgrounds and understandings of violently racist Americans.
You may want to read Picoult's "Author's Note" at book's end before you start at the beginning. Here, Jodi tells what she hopes to accomplish in writing about racism in America and how she has prepared herself to do it. You can judge for yourself how successful she is. But, like me, I'll bet you will be doing plenty of thinking about your own views on race and privilege. It's a book that begs to be discussed, and courageous groups will find plenty to talk about.
(The title is from a quote of Dr. Martin Luther King's: "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.")