Sunday, October 30, 2016

Congrats to Jodi Picoult for Another Winner

You all know I'm a big Jodi Picoult fan.  She's written 22 adult novels, and I have read them all.  In fact, 3 of them, The Storyteller, The Pact, and My Sister's Keeper, are on my recommendation table on Sunday mornings at Recycle Books.  Now I can add a 4th.  Her latest, small great things, is darn good.  It almost took me as much time to make notes as to read the book!  Did I enjoy it more because I saw her in person a couple of weeks ago at Rakestraw Books in Danville?  I don't think so.  I'm not thinking about personal connections when I'm reading. I'm just...reading.

Instead of quoting either Goodreads or the book flap, I'm going to give you a very quick synopsis.  The book is told in the voices of 3 people:  An African-American 20-year labor and delivery nurse, Ruth; a Caucasian female public defender, Kennedy; and a white supremacist, Turk.  All I will tell you is that Turk and his wife have a baby in a hospital in Connecticut where Ruth works.  Things don't turn out so well, which brings Kennedy into the picture.  That's all you need to know.

There is so much to say about small great things.  I'm best off listing them.  And please bear with me.  I have a lot to say (you're surprised?).

1.    The name of the book comes from a Martin Luther King quote.
2.    There are several other very good quotes, including this one on page 1 - "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."  Think about that.
3.    There is rarely much humor in Jodi's books.  There was Leo Stein in The Storyteller, a decidedly un-funny book.  But Leo definitely made me laugh.  And here is Kennedy (and her husband, Micah), again in a very not-funny book who breaks up the drama a little bit with some humor.  I don't need to laugh to like a book.  But when you have such serious subject matter (like The Storyteller), it's not so bad to break up the tension once in a while.
4.    It's tough to read about white supremacists and their "wilding." (Look up the definition.)  It's also very disturbing to learn about all of the different white supremacist groups.  But I'm glad(?) to have the information.
5.    I actually enjoyed learning about the food handling practices inside of a McDonald's (I know...lame).
6.    I liked that there were personal histories for each of the characters in many of their sections.
7.    I liked learning the language inside of a labor and delivery department along with details of infant diseases.  It's hard to read, but I appreciate the education.
8.    Did you know that when attorneys come up to the judge's bench for a sidebar, that a noise machine is turned on so that the rest of the court can't hear what's being said?  I didn't either.
9.    I had my usual tears and chills.  But in this book I might have experienced a first.  I actually cried for 5 pages (286-290)!  Have I ever told you that my triple bypass surgery causes excessive emotional reactions!?
10.  I had my usual array of personal connections to the book.  At one point, Kennedy says "I have sweaters older than you."  I use that line all the time.  But usually I substitute "clothes" for "sweaters."  And Kennedy later says that she doesn't want to be "...flagged by CPS (Child Protection Services) for not watching my kid more closely or letting her run in socks on a slippery wooden floor."  I just fell on my caboose a couple of weeks ago for walking too fast on a wooden floor in my socks (TMI?).

And besides all of this stuff listed above, Jodi is such a good writer.  I'll give you just a few examples:

"...the shining whites of her eyes made me think of merry-go-round horses, frozen in flight."  Pretty visual, wouldn't you say?
" has nothing to do with what you're looking at, and everything to do with who's looking."  Whoa, deep, man.
"In a lot of ways, having a teenager isn't all that different from having a newborn.  You learn to read the reactions, because they are incapable of saying exactly what it is that's causing pain."  True that!
"What no one told me about grief is how lonely it is.  No matter who else is mourning, you're in your own little cell."  Ain't that the truth?
And, finally, this is Ruth talking about having a baby:  "I was a straight-A student; I was an overachiever.  I had never imagined that this - the most natural of all relationships - would make me feel so incompetent." All of us parents know that Ruth speaks the truth.

I could go on and on.  But, fortunately for you, I will stop.  People, this is just a very, very good book.  And don't be surprised if you find yourself with a big takeaway at the end.  I know I did.


  1. It sounds like you learned a lot as you read this book. I'm glad to see it's a winner.

    1. Although I find it hard to believe, I still don't know everything!

  2. I don't read Picoult often but when I do it's usually good. This one sounds good. Unfortunately, I have been learning way too much about white supremacist groups since this election cycle started :(