“They don’t have a problem with what i’ve done. Just with who I am.”
As usual, Jodi Picoult has written a book that made me angry, sad and joyful. Picoult’s writing is immersive – her books aren’t short, but they are quick reads. She knows exactly how to weave a story to keep the reader interested and yearning for more.
Small Great Things tackles racism, white supremacist attitudes, everyday prejudices, and even class differences.
I have to be clear, i’m writing my review from the perspective of someone who’s white, and who grew up relatively middle class – I don’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of my skin color, and I don’t have to worry about keeping my fridge full or my lights on at home. So I can only approach this review with my own experience.
“It’s easy to believe we’re all in this together when you’re not the one who was dragged out of your home by the police.”
That being said, I think Picoult did a great job of examining racism (whether overt, or unintentional). Ruth’s experiences are frustrating and heartbreaking. They are also real. Nothing in this book felt over exaggerated or unbelievable. Without spoiling anything, I was worried at one point that Ruth was just going to be the book’s punching bag for the entirety of the book.
“It’s pretty terrifying. I mean, what if your next-door neighbor was a white supremacist and you didn’t know it?”
Kennedy’s evolution throughout the book was interesting – she starts to notice racial microaggressions even before taking on Ruth’s case. Most of Kennedy’s character really revolves around the other characters in the book, so I don’t have much to say about her, honestly. It wasn’t a bad choice by Picoult, Kennedy is more of a means to an end. Her interactions with her mom were interesting, but they didn’t add much to the story as a whole.
“He’s pushed up his sleeves while I was out of the room. Running from write to elbow on one arm is the tattoo of a Confederate flag.”
The most intriguing character of this book is, hands down, Turk Bauer. He’s vile – an unapologetic white supremacist with a horrific backstory. I can’t imagine what it was like for Picoult to write from Turk’s perspective. On the flip side, he’s also a grieving parent. It’s an interesting dichotomy – hating him due to his beliefs, but also feeling sympathy for him due to his loss.
Turk is also fascinating due to the current political climate of our country – people who act like Turk, who think like Turk, seem emboldened by the rhetoric coming from the White House and are more vocal, more public with their racist, sexist beliefs.
Is this book perfect? Probably not. I can only comment on what I know. However, it does seem like Picoult did her due diligence – she conducted thorough research, consulted with a number of people who can provide first-hand accounts of the events in the book.
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Dr. MLK, Jr.