I Finally Read ‘Small Great Things.’ You Should, Too.

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.

But.

Sigh.

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.

Small Great Things

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.

3 Books I Read on My Beach Vacation

One of my favorite parts of our annual beach vacation is reading all the books. With my time off in June, I had already read a few books during the month—something I hadn’t done in months. All the reading made me feel very much me.

I like to read novels on vacation. Not necessarily pure fluff, but nothing hard-hitting either. I basically just like to used my normally unheard of free time to escape a little while the ocean breeze cools me off and the waves lick at my toes.

I mostly enjoyed the three books I read on my beach vacation this year. I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re looking for a summer book or one to read on the beach.

The Rosie Effect

Suggestions for Books to Read on the Beach

I stood in front of the New Releases section at the library a week before we left for vacation and grabbed this book. A large number of my friends read the first book, The Rosie Project, but I didn’t. However, I knew many of them enjoyed the book and here was the sequel just sitting on the shelf which never happens in our library system. Critically acclaimed and sought-after releases are often requested before they’re officially released (often by me), so the waiting list is usually a billion people long. Maybe it’s because it’s a late-new-release for our library. Who knows. I grabbed it.

I enjoyed the book—for the most part. I felt some of the awkwardness came off as overplayed, like Sheldon on crack. I found the legal storyline a bit annoying. In fact, I feel that the legal story line speaks volumes as to why our CPS system is currently overloaded, leaving many children who would benefit from services in the lurch. Focusing on non-cases results in children who really need the help being left in abusive, neglectful situations.

But I did mostly enjoy the book beyond those two issues. Would I recommend The Rosie Effect? Yes, if you read the first book. Probably not if you did not read it.

In Every Way

Oh dear. Also standing in the library, I wanted to pick something “beachy” off the New Releases shelf. In Every Way featured sky and sand on its spine, so I grabbed it. The book was set in Beaufort, NC, not even a half hour from where we stay at the ocean and one of my favorite places to visit and explore while down there. So I slipped it into my library bag.

Yeah. It’s an adoption themed novel. Because of course.

A young (but not too young, like, you know, me) woman experiences an unplanned pregnancy. Her boyfriend is an imbicile, because God forbid we portray a biological (or any) father as anything but. Her mother is dying of cancer. She chooses a family on the adoption agency’s website because she has seen the father in Beaufort, NC where she sometimes stays with a family friend in the summer.

You can see where this is going, right? I mean, the book’s plot doesn’t go quite as obnoxious as the new Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig movie entitled A Deadly Adoption (which, who thought THAT was a good idea??), but it takes a Juno-esque plot twist and sends the book in a “unique” but insert-eye-roll-here direction. I spent a lot of time picking the book up, reading a paragraph, and putting it back down. In disgust.

The birth mother stereotypes are plenty. She casually drinks and uses drugs. She drops out of college when she gets pregnant. She presents a “threat” to the adoptive parents. But she’s also very intelligent (as we see at the end of the book) and caring. She initially wanted a closed adoption, but still chose to breastfeed in the hospital.

In the end, In Every Way lends nothing to the adoption conversation in entertainment. There’s nothing new in this book that we haven’t already been force-fed by previous authors and screenwriters, considering the Juno spin isn’t a hard leap. I’d venture to say that for the general non-adoption public, this book does a disservice by presenting the birth mother as a figure not to be trusted. I finished the book, and that’s enough for me. I would recommend it to other critical adoption thinkers and reformers as we need to keep abreast of how adoption continues to be poorly portrayed into today’s media. But otherwise, you can skip it.

Suggestions for Books to Read on the Beach

The Time Between

Every year when we’re on Emerald Isle, we stop at Emerald Isle Books. It’s an independent book store in the little strip mall near the Food Lion. I love me an independent book store, so we purchase books every year as a simple “thank you for existing in this, my favorite place.”

Most often I find myself in the Southern Fiction section as I like to add another beachy type book to my library while on vacation. Having just finished In Every Way which gave me some great Beaufort action, I wanted something else southern and beach-ified. The Time Between is based in Charleston and Edisto Island, South Carolina. While I’ve never been to Edisto, I enjoyed the scenic tour the author gave of the island and the things she taught me about the Lowcountry I didn’t know.

The book was a very interesting read. I will say that the guilt and forgiveness story lines spoke volumes to me. There’s a little bit of everything in this book. There’s some childhood cancer, a handsome man, a broken relationship between sisters, some mystery, some history, and of course, some romance. Along with some solid writing (minus one double-n in Glen’s name which is the editor’s fault, not the writer), I could hardly put this book down—until right near the end. I wanted to know what was going to happen… and I didn’t. I didn’t want it to end… and I did.


While my reading slowed since we got home, I’ve been reading more and more. Maybe I’ll read enough to tell you about a few at the end of July. We’ll see!

Enjoy whatever you choose to read on the beach!