Instaread Summary, Analysis & Review of Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things
Five out of five stars
For hundreds of years the phrase “color line” has been a convenient myth used to justify the expression of the racism of whites against blacks. There are several main characters in the book, each of which represents an aspect of the complex problems and solutions of racism. They are explained very well in the summary, each occupying a specific niche in the complex problem of racism in America.
Ruth Kennedy is a black nurse in a maternity ward when a baby is born to Turk Bauer, a virulent, violent white supremacist. Turk refuses to allow Ruth to care for his baby, yet when the baby is in distress Ruth touches it. When the baby dies, Ruth is accused of murder and is defended by public defender Kennedy McQuarrie. Kennedy is white and while she firmly believes in color-blind justice, she is very naive about the experiences of black people in white society. Wallace Mercy is a reverend and television civil rights activist that takes an interest in the case and it is revealed that Turk’s wife Brittany has a black mother. Brittany was the product of a white supremacist father and a black mother. (I’m thinking Strom Thurmond here.)
This complex mix of extreme characters leads to a plot that is presented in a very straightforward way without seeming to have been uttered by a fast-talking auctioneer. The plot is clearly understood and reflects the racial contradictions that still exist in modern American society. Some weaknesses in character development are flagged, but given the number of characters with such significant roles, this is inevitable.
Reading about the Turk character reminded me of something that I read years ago that was from an interview of a black women witnessing the behavior of white segregationists in the 1960’s. She talked about how loving and caring they were towards their children and how that switched to virulent hatred at the sight of a black person. This recollection and the parentage of Brittany demonstrate that there is a great deal of historical accuracy in the book.