This review is written with thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for my copy of Small Great Things.
Ruth is an African American nurse in the Labour and Delivery Unit of her local hospital. Her patient, Brittany Bauer is in labour, and attends hospital with her husband, Turk. Turk is a white supremacist, and asks Ruth's boss to ensure that Ruth is no longer involved in his wife's care, or the care of his newborn baby, Davis. Following a routine operation, Davis suffers a cardiac arrest, and Ruth is the only nurse available to care for him. When Davis dies, Ruth is accused of murder. Will she be found guilty?
Small Great Things is told by three different narrators: Ruth, Turk and Kennedy, the lawyer defending Ruth. I admired the way that Picoult was able to change the tone between the different narratives, as this helped me to gain insight into each character's attitude, and consider my own standpoint on this matter. The different narratives also help the reader to understand the motivations of each character, and in the case of Turk, this blurs the lines between right and wrong, and creates an interesting moral dilemma, which kept me engaged in the novel throughout.
Small Great Things is described in the blurb as "To Kill A Mockingbird for the 21st century". This gives Picoult a lot to live up to, but it is easy to see why the comparisons have been made. Picoult writes philosophically, using beautiful language in her descriptions, and this gives the reader a lot to think about, not just in terms of this plot, but in terms of the racist narratives in general society.
As Small Great Things is set in America, Ruth's case is subject to the American legal system. I am not familiar with the American legal system, and therefore some of the protocol that Ruth is expected to follow confused me in places. However, the narrative of Kennedy serves partly to clarify this.
Whilst Small Great Things did not quite match To Kill A Mockingbird for me, it is a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was compelled to continue reading and discover the outcome of Ruth's trial.
Small Great Things is published on 22nd November and is available from Amazon.