I haven’t reviewed a book in a long time. Additionally, as Jodi Picoult published small great things in 2016, my review is neither first nor earth-shattering.
I only chose to read this book after many of my respected friends with knowledge of books, societal issues, and other characteristics I love about said friends repeatedly recommended the book to me. I resisted for a long, long time. I quit reading Picoult years and years ago. Many reasons caused the cease-read, all of which other book-lovers have espoused on their own blogs and in conversation with other book lovers: formulaic writing, that inevitable last-few-pages plot-twist that you’re not supposed to see coming, but revisit formulaic writing, and now you can pick out what the shocker will be around page 200. Or earlier.
I did like that Picoult often tackled controversial issues from a fictional standpoint. I liked that she caused readers to think about subjects beyond their normal scope of reference. But I simply got bored with the same thing, over and over and over.
But on my Startbucks-and-Target date with my daughter, I found the book on sale. It landed in my cart, along with another book. That’s right. I didn’t even request the book from the library; I bought it. This is why I should avoid the book department in all stores. They just slip right into my cart. Along with shiny rose-gold sequined pillows for my daughter.
I started reading the book on the way home from Philly last weekend. I like to read on the way home from a visit (if I’m not driving, obviously) as it keeps me out of my head. I read over half of the book before the end of our six hour drive. I had to put the book down a few times due to that woozy feeling I get when I read in a car. It’s not quite car-sickness, but I’m aware when it’s time to take a break and look at the landscape of central Pennsylvania for while before picking it back up. I also had to set it down a number of times for GIANT EYE ROLLS and general frustration.
I didn’t really have time to finish the book until this Thursday.
Of note: I found myself on the last page. And my mom called. After I got off the phone with her, I picked the book back up and realized I talked too long and it was time to run our VIP Group sale. So it took me three hours to finish the last page.
Then I threw the book on the floor. My husband just looked at me the way he does when I toss books on the floor as I finish reading.
The giant plot twist did not surprise me one bit. I called it early on when the missing newborn report surfaced. I did not like the easy, tidy-this-up, throw in a suicide, everyone moved on to have better lives in three pages ending. I loathe quick, tidy endings. Be a little messy. Leave a question or two. Just don’t fix everything. Not everything needs fixed. Trust your readers to use their brains.
This is where I had to go back and tell Denise she was right. She owns me, so this is of no real surprise to me. But yes, she was right.
I mentioned earlier that this book was published in 2016. In fact, it came out in October 2016. If you’ve read any articles about Picoult’s writing of this book or even the Author’s Note at the end of the book, you know that this particular story has been years and even decades in writing. The original story, from which Picoult wove this fictional one, took place in 2013 when a nurse in Flint, MI sued the hospital for discrimination. And won.
I tell you this because this is a book to read now. In 2017. Now, with the back-and-forth travel ban and revoked-regiven Visas. With Executive Actions that don’t feel right. Coming off of an election season during which we saw confederate flags en masse, high school students feeling empowered to wear white pride shirts to pep rallies at school, and that whole hail Trump complete with Nazi salute. That’s not even mentioning Steve Bannon who is in a class of hatred all his own.
Many of my urban friends feel shocked when I tell them of the hatred I witness in our small, rural town in Ohio. The six confederate flags I pass on one of my runs. The Facebook posts justifying everything from keeping out refugees to scary racist epithets from people who should really, really know better. When Walmart stopped selling confederate flag merchandise in their stores, some locals went and bought out their inventory and sold it alongside the road here. And I’m not even willing or able to jump into the whole Church + Trump love affair that makes absolutely no sense. Maybe someday.
The hate runs deep here. I’ve surrounded myself with loving, smart, tolerant individuals who keep me sane. But make no mistake, white supremacy, hatred of all races, and an undercurrent of violence against that or those which are different pulse through much of rural America. It’s scary. It’s real. And it’s why I knew Trump would be elected despite my urban friends voicing their shock when we watched state after state go red.
All that said, reading small great things wasn’t overly eye-opening for me, but I can see why it is an important book for others, especially those who feel shocked about the rise of the Alt-Right and safety those who vie for white supremacy now feel. I lamented the fact that the book was written by Picoult for purely literary purposes, all mentioned earlier, but also because here’s another white lady white-splaining racism. Right? Whereas I have Black friends writing their truths day in and day out. Why aren’t they best-sellers yet?
Then I got to this quote in the book, which made me finally sigh and realize this was the right book from the right person. This quote comes from the Black nurse to her white attorney who, in closing arguments, really drives home the racism that took place in this case.
“But I could have screamed it from the rooftops, and it wouldn’t have done any good. For the jurors to hear it, really hear it, it had to be said by one of their own.”
So yes. I would recommend reading small great things. Even if you’ve avoided Picoult for years. Even if you’re tired of reading about racism from white chicks. Even if you’re scared to death about what’s going on in our country right now—maybe especially so. Get ready to roll your eyes once or twice and to yell, “HA! Called it!” But read it.
PS: I know it’s being made into a movie and I expect that to rank on my Most Hated Book-to-Movie adaptations, much like My Sister’s Keeper. At least Cameron Diaz won’t be in this movie. Small victories.