“What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn’t fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit? How come we haven’t been able to change the puzzle instead?”
Before anything else, I want to say that I am an Asian. Filipino to be specific. I do not live in the United States, and I don’t know how it feels like to be born as white or black. Maybe that would give me a reason not to judge both race. Maybe that would mean I am unauthorized to take sides since I wasn’t born in their shoes. Yes folks, I don’t know how to be them. But I know the difference between right and wrong, and if there’s one thing that I can’t stand? That is injustice.
I’m saying this because in this latest novel “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult, she writes about one of the most critical issues of today-RACISM. Personally, I was a little hesitant if I’m going to pick this book up since Picoult has had a record of making me emotional (specifically cry) numerous times with her novels. I wasn’t sure about doing this review either since this is such a sensitive topic. For me, Jodi has outdone herself in this. To have the courage to write something about races is something to be commended. Upon reading her novel, people might get defensive, others may be offended or mad. As a renowned and multi awarded novelist, that can be bad for her.
The story is about Ruth Brooks. She is a loving mother, a responsible daughter, and a hardworking and dedicated Labor and Delivery Nurse for 20 years. She has a steady job, an intelligent, obedient, kind son, a circle of friends and a peaceful neighborhood. Ruth could have lived the perfect and happy life she always strives to have. Except one thing always keeps in the way- she was born black.
Then there was Turk and Brittany Bauer. They were White Supremacists who changed Ruth’s life from being steady to chaotic. It was when they banned Ruth from getting involved from their newly born child. It was when Ruth was the only person in the nursery when their child was dying. It was when she did not know what to do. Would she stay away from the child, or go and try to save him though she was forbidden to?
I really admired Ruth’s persistence. It was hard, she struggles everyday, but she keeps going. It was hard not to like her and get mad whenever she gets so blamed throughout the book. But I think the character who evolved and has had a lot of realization is Kennedy McQuarrie. She’s Ruth’s lawyer, but more than that she was an eye opener. She made me realize that that “putting yourself in other people’s shoes” saying doesn’t do all the trick. She rocked it and she is really one character to watch out for.
I’ve always loved the courtroom scenes in a Jodi Picoult novel. These are the parts where I usually get hyped (and want to punch a wall. haha) and I think Small Great Things adds up to my list of favorites. I knew even before I opened this book that there will be a lot of cliff-hanging chapters, self-reflecting statements, and sizzling courtroom scenes. It was very well-written. Kennedy’s closing speech brought tears to my eyes and was one of the reasons that I came to love her.
I tried to know more about White Supremacy after reading this book. And frankly, I wasn’t quite done with my research. But reading more about it made me understand Turk and Brittany’s behaviors and beliefs a lot more.
I’ve said it before I started this review. I am not White or Black. But it does not mean I have never seen inequality. It does not mean I’ve never seen prejudice and race discrimination. My own race has been colonized by Spaniards, Americans and Japanese. It did make up of what we became now, but for too many years, we were treated as slaves, and those colonizers as superior to us. Too many Filipinos died over these colonizing era. For too long we were regarded as “indios”, and even up to the present, despite how far we’ve become as a republic, there’s no denying that the Philippines is still a third world country. Still behind the countries that colonized us. Sometimes discriminated, many times looked down upon.
Maybe that is a bad thing. Maybe not. Maybe that is the reason why I related so much with this novel. Good times comes to us, sometimes we strive hard to achieve it. But then, we could look back and remember where we came from and the struggles behind our success. It’s like a replay of episodes in our minds. And that’s what I think, is the fallback of Ruth’s character. She always hope life would be better and equal for her and her son. But she also knew, that the race issue would come up anytime. She was always waiting for it. In the back of her mind, when an unusual situation arises, she would blame it for her being African-American. That same reason over and over again.
I had some issues with the ending though. And I kind of understand that she wanted her readers to see something beyond the issue by making something out of the characters. It just appeared too idealistic, for me. But all in all it is a very good book. A page turner and still, as always, very emotional and moving. It would make you question your reasoning, but at the same time would allow us to reflect on ourselves.
It is a four out of five for me. It was indeed, a work of fiction, but it talks about reality. The reality of what’s been going on not just in America, but all around the world. Great attempt for Jodi Picoult in trying to open our minds and touch our hearts!