Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse in Connecticut. With her 20 years of experience, she is proud of what she does and how she does it. Her fairly normal life comes to a screeching halt, however, when a white supremacist and his wife come to Ruth’s hospital to deliver their baby. Ruth is African-American and this couple refuses to let her care for their baby.
When the baby goes into cardiac distress with no one in the nursery but Ruth, she is conflicted about whether to follow orders not to care for the baby or intervene. Being the good nurse she is, she begins resuscitation. The outcome, however, is not good and the baby dies.
Before she knows it, Ruth is being charged with the baby’s death. This novel takes on race in an extremely sensitive and bold way. Though Ruth is used to the papercuts of racism she experiences routinely, her trial (where her lawyer tells her bringing race into the defense is a losing strategy) becomes a bludgeon of racism. Readers will see themselves on the racism spectrum.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Ballantine Books; ISBN 978-0-34554-495-7; $28.99.
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