Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publishing Date: 10/2016
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
Ruth Jackson grows up in New York with her mother, Adele, who works as a maid for a wealthy family in Manhattan, and her sister Rachel who later changes her name to Adisa. The Hallowell's daughter, Christina, is close in age with Ruth and they become friends. When Mrs. Hallowell was pregnant and Adele helped her deliver the baby it impacted all the girls differently into their adulthood - Rachel/Adisa had 5 children, Christina had a child through a surrogate and Ruth became a labor and delivery nurse. Ruth absolutely loves her job and has over 20 years of experience in her field. She was the nurse on duty when Brittany and Turk's son, Davis, is born. While doing a routine check-up on the Davis and Brittany, Ruth noticed that Brittany and Turk were acting strange and chalked it up to the nervousness of being new parents. Needless to say she was shocked when they requested her supervisor to remove her from their care. It turns out that Turk and Brittany are white supremacists and did not want a black nurse touching their child. Although she doesn't agree with the decision she abides by it. A few days later Davis is circumcised and Ruth is the only nurse available to watch him when the attending nurse has an emergency with another patient. Unfortunately, Davis stops breathing and Ruth is left with a tough definition, does she help the child even though she's not supposed to touch him or does she do nothing? When her supervisor returns to the room, Ruth assists her supervisor in reviving Davis but he dies. As expected Turk and Brittany are upset and blame Ruth for Davis's death and file a criminal complaint which leads to Ruth being arrested in her home. While being arraigned Ruth meets her public defender Kennedy McQuarrie. Kennedy, who is white, believes Ruth is innocent and wants to take on the case herself, although she doesn't have enough experience with murder cases. Kennedy did not think bringing race into the courtroom would benefit Ruth because she believes justice is blind and it wouldn't help Ruth to bring up race in court. However, Kennedy didn't take into account her own prejudices and biases while preparing for the case and it took a lot of . In the meantime, Ruth lost her job and had to find a way to take care of herself and her teenage son, Edison. Kennedy realized in order to gain Ruth's trust she has to let Ruth tell her own story. . . she did try to save Davis even though she wasn't supposed to touch him. Ruth told the court that essentially race and prejudices have affected her life, for example not getting promoted, although she's been working in the hospital longer than her younger and newly employed supervisor. During the trial, Kennedy presents evidence that there were complications in the pregnancy which caused Davis's death. After the trial the lives of Ruth, Turk, Brittany and Kennedy changed in many different ways.
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
Small Great Things title comes from a Dr. Martin Luther King quote during the Civil Rights Movement in which the goal is for people not to discount small acts of service because even small acts can mean big things and lead to big acts. Jodi Picoult understood that choosing Dr. King's words might cause some issues but she wanted the people who read her book, and in particular white people, to find not only find his words inspiring but as a guide to self-awareness. Keeping the topic in mind, this book is definitely a powerful read. It deals with so many topics that can be difficult for readers to read such as: race, prejudice, infant death, white supremacists, suicide and the legal system to name a few. I went through a spectrum of emotions while reading this book: anger, sadness, disbelief and reflection. Reading this book when racism seems to be prevalent and undisguised was hard. Picoult did a really good job making all the voices in the book believable whether you wanted to hear them or not. I would like to give Picoult credit because she did a lot of research and spoke to people that could help her understand the points of view that she was writing the characters about. She interviewed and sat down with women of color and two former skinheads to do the proper research for the book. She enrolled in social justice workshops and learned about what White Power groups believe in. While writing Small Great Things, Picoult could have easily pandered to one character or tried to make the whole book into a kumbaya moment but I think she thought through how she wanted each character to be portrayed and to make the reader think about their own views and how they contribute to racism. I often find that writers who write books outside of their culture don't take the time to understand the subjects and just write about their perceived truths.
Overall, I really can't do this book justice. It's definitely a page turner. There's no way you can read this book and not take stock of what your beliefs are, what, if any, prejudices you have toward a certain group of people and/or how those thoughts have influenced you in your day to day interactions with others. I would definitely recommend this book for others to read.
Did you read Small Great Things? What did you think? Did you like any of the characters? Can you identify with any of the characters? Have you ever encountered any sort of racism/prejudice? Have you displayed any racist behavior towards others? Did reading this book point a magnifying glass towards any thoughts/behaviors you've had in the past that you're not proud of? Would you recommend this book to someone? Why or Why not?
Author: Lynda Cohen Loigman
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publishing Date: March 2016
Brooklyn, 1947: In the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage: dutiful, quiet Rose, who wants nothing more than to please her difficult husband; and warm, generous Helen, the exhausted mother of four rambunctious boys who seem to need her less and less each day. Raising their families side by side, supporting one another, Rose and Helen share an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic winter night.
When the storm passes, life seems to return to normal; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and the once deep friendship between the two women begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost, but not quite, wins. Moving and evocative, Lynda Cohen Loigman's debut novel The Two-Family House is a heart-wrenching, gripping multigenerational story, woven around the deepest of secrets.
MY THOUGHTS (w/spoilers):
As a reader, after reading the Prologue, you can immediately guess what was going to happen, however, what you don't know is who made the decision and how it is going to impact everyone. Two brothers live with their respective families in a two family house. Pretty much that's about all they have in common. Mort lives with his wife Rose and their three daughters on the first floor and Abe, Helen and their four sons live on the second floor. Mort is a bitter, cantakerous and uninvolved father while Abe is friendly, good-natured and loving husband and father. Helen and Rose became very close friends, if not sisters, after Rose and Mort got married. They depended on each other for companionship, friendship, support and once they found out they were pregnant at the same time they couldn't be more excited but each had a secret wish---Rose wanted a boy whereas Helen wanted a girl. Mort was not an easy man to be with and Rose felt that if she could give him the one thing he wanted then maybe he would be less angry, less bitter. Helen on the other hand wanted a girl because she wanted someone who wasn't so rough and would want to spend time together. She knew once her boys grew up they would leave and she wouldn't have that friendship with their wives. So on a fateful night a decision is made, yet one was able to live with the choice, while the other regretted it then everything changed.
Even without Loigman telling you right away they switched children you knew that's what happened. What took me by surprise was Rose's reaction afterwards--she no longer cared about herself, her new son, Teddy, or what Mort thought. Where she was once a devoted and attentive mother she no longer took any interest. Sadly, due to Mort's ornery day-to-day behavior and now Rose's inattentiveness their children felt abandoned. She initially suffered from postpartum depression eventually she just became a very angry person. In a nutshell she became Mort. It was pretty clear she regretted the decision that was made but she never tried to correct it. It seemed like she blamed everyone else for the circumstances: Mort for wanting a boy and not being happy prior because of it, Helen for being able to go on as though everything was fine and herself for making the decision and not being okay with it. Rose took out her frustration and anger on the one person who was the closest to her, Helen. Time and time again Helen tried to recapture their friendship but Rose consistently and cruelly pushed her away.
In spite of all of this chaos between the adults the two youngest children, Teddy and Natalie were the best of buddies. They complimented each other beautifully. Teddy is quiet and unsure while Natalie is willful and confident. Consequently, their friendship along with Natalie's tenacity is what helped Mort finally become a father. Somehow Natalie found a way to engage Mort without being obstructive to Mort's way of being. Then tragedy struck and it rocked both households. By this point Rose and Helen's relationship is almost non-existent whereas Natalie and Mort's friendship grew. She became Mort's touchstone. He became a nicer man due to her generosity of spirit, just like her father.
I tried to give a very broad view without giving too much away. Yes, I know that the plot of the story was easy to tell right away but what I liked about this story was how things changed after both Rose and Helen got what they wanted. Rose's expectations of her home life depended on the gender of her child. She thought all of a sudden Mort would become father and husband of the year. Of course, she realized later this is who he was and she just didn't care anymore. Helen had the girl that she wanted and remained the same person. It didn't matter to her how she got Natalie she was just happy to have her and Teddy in her life. At first Mort was the same and he realized "having a boy is the same as having a girl" but with Natalie around, Teddy was able to shine a bit. Abe was always loving and kind man even to his brother who at times didn't deserve his kindness.
One of my issues was how didn't anyone guess why Rose and Helen weren't speaking. Even Judith, Rose's eldest daughter, kept trying to understand what happened and knew it started on the night the babies were born. I tried putting myself in their shoes but I kept going back to the same thought....HOW DON'T THEY KNOW? HOW HAVEN'T THEY BEEN ABLE TO FIGURE THIS OUT? The other issue is Rose. I didn't get why she behaved that way. Yes, she was fed up with Mort and how his behavior affected everything and his disinterest in the girls but she ended up losing the one person that was closest to her. I don't think what happened warranted her behaving that way. Yes, she regretted her decision but she also made a decision not to do anything about it too. The people I really feel bad for are Helen, Teddy and the daughters. Helen missed her friend, Teddy missed having a mother and the girls missed the mother they knew. What could've possibly been a happy situation turned out differently and the only good thing was that Mort became a kinder man.
What did you think of the book? Did you like or dislike it? How do you think the story would be different if the women didn't exchange babies? Do you think Rose would have taken the same course? What about Helen? Would the relationships between the two families remained? Would Mort and Rose's marriage survived? How do you think Natalie was able to get through to Mort? How do think their relationship changed afterwards? What do you think of what happened to the rest of the individuals in the families?
Author: Colm Tóibín
Publishing Date: March 2010
It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where the landlady’s intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation.
Slowly, however, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life — until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Enniscorthy, not to the constrictions of her old life, but to new possibilities which conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.
In the quiet character of Eilis Lacey, Colm Tóibín has created one of fiction’s most memorable heroines and in Brooklyn, a luminous novel of devastating power. Tóibín demonstrates once again his astonishing range and that he is a true master of nuanced prose, emotional depth, and narrative virtuosity.
MY THOUGHTS (w/spoilers):
I may be in the minority by saying that I thought this book was just okay. I felt empathy for Eilis's struggle of having to travel alone to a new country with no friends or family to await her arrival. Specially since the trip took longer by boat and she was very seasick. She had to learn how to survive living in a new place and try to make new friends. While reading the book you can tell she was young and naive and she did show some spirit at times but overall she just went with the flow.
I think that's what bothered me about it and it probably says more about me than the character. Eilis didn't make her own decisions throughout the book (e.g., her sister got her the trip to America, Father Flood found her a place to live, a job and in school for bookkeeping). Her life seemed to be run by everyone else. She didn't seem to have any opinion of what she wanted or she didn't say it to anybody. She was very passive aggressive with her roommates and her landlord. She clearly didn't like them because they would say things she didn't like but she didn't say anything to stop them. The reason she married Tony wasn't because she loved him but because she couldn't say no. Tony clearly loved her and wanted to start a family but she couldn't tell him that she wants to work instead of a family.
Eilis did have moments of character but they were rare and far in between. For instance, when she assisted the black customers at the department store she worked. She knew her supervisor was not pleased but she did it anyway. Also she was nice to her roommate Dolores even though everyone else made fun of her for being a scrubber (she cleaned the house for rent). It was in these instances that I found myself cheering for Eilis. I wanted her to do something for herself. Unfortunately, she continued to follow what everyone else told her to do.
I feel like I wanted to like the book because everyone was talking about what a good book it was. The more I tried to force the issue the more annoyed I became with her.
What did you think of the book? Did you like Eilis's character? Did you understand her perspective? Do you think you could move to another country by yourself? Would you have made the same decisions she did?
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: First Back Bay/Little, Brown & Company
Publ. Date: May 2011
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the world. It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where Jack is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack's curiosity is building alongside Ma's own desperation--and she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.
Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.
MY THOUGHTS :
The story begins with Jack turning 5 years old. Jack eats, plays and watches only a little TV, his Ma says if you watch too much "it rots the brain", in a room. This is the only place Jack knows but to his mother there is a world outside the room she misses and where people miss her. For the past seven years Ma, as she is called by Jack, has been held captive by Old Nick but Jack doesn't realize it. The room is Jack's whole life and all he knows. He doesn't believe what he sees on TV is real. He thinks all the stories his mother tells him about the outside world are made up and just wants to stay where he is. As time passes by Ma is not only afraid for herself but for Jack too. She knows Jack is getting older and Old Nick will see him as a threat and may either take him away or harm him. She recognizes the fact that it's time for them to try to escape and she has to depend on Jack for help.
Room was a tough read for many reasons. First, it is written the way a 5 year old child speaks and thinks since it's written through Jack's point-of-view. It wasn't that he didn't know how to speak but his vocabulary is clearly very hindered due to his limited interaction with people other than his mother or watching television. Second, even though Jack's mother tried to instill some semblance of normal to what a normal boy his age would do, such as exercising on a homemade track, playing pretend and learning to read, after awhile you start to understand what difficulties Jack would face outside the room. Third, the subject matter is very, very difficult - abduction/kidnapping, captivity and rape.
Due to the topics of captivity, kidnapping and rape the book instilled a sense of fear right from the beginning. Initially I started to feel claustrophobic by the space they lived in. Jack's mother had no privacy and they had to make due with the space that they did have. Donoghue draws you in to their every day lives that it almost starts to feel normal and you hope the bad guy doesn't make an entrance into the small bubble Jack and his mother have created. When Old Nick makes an appearance I immediately got a sense of dread and anxiety because I never knew when he would come back and destroy the safe space again. I wanted to yell at the book/Old Nick to leave them alone. Although Donoghue brings him into their safe space but when he's not there he feels like a shadow that is always looming. When coming up to the parts of rape I had to put the book down. Although Donoghue didn't give to much detail the idea of it was horrendous. Plus the added fear of what can happen to Jack made it even worse.
I rated the book a 4 because I liked it and thought it is well written even though primarily it was difficult to read via a 5 year-old's perspective. I disliked it because of the subject matters of the book and I found one aspect to be unbelievable. I found it absurd that Jack's mother hatched a plan so quickly and implemented Jack into it. Jack was still the same 5 year old who thought his mother made believe all the things about Outside and now she's asking him to go on a harrowing task and be brave. Yes there was an element of speed in which the plan had to happen or else the opportunity would've been lost yet she expected a lot from Jack who never set foot outside. I'm glad and I cheered when the plan worked but my heart was in my throat the whole time. I was very scared for Ma and Jack. I couldn't imagine putting our lives in my child's hands and hoping they would be able to memorize a plan while being scared at the same time.
What did you think of Room? How did you cope reading through the difficult parts in the Room? What did you think of Jack? Ma? Did you have trouble reading Room? Have you seen the movie? If not, do you plan to? Is there anything you would change or think should be expanded on?
All 2018 Reading Challenge 6 Kids Ayana Mathis Brooklyn Brothers Burning Books Censorship Commonwealth Dlvorce Escape Fahrenheit 451 Families Family Fiction Firemen Franny Friendship Haruki Murakami Infant Death Ireland Jodi Picoult Kidnapping Legal System Liane Moriarty Montag Murder New York Oprah's Book Club Pet Starling Pregnancy Prejudice Race Rape Ray Bradbury Reading Challenge Book Room Secret Small Great Things Snowstorm Suicide The Cousins' The Keating's The Strange Library The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie Two-Family House White Supremacists
Thank you, your message has been sent