Top critical review
Could have been great
Reviewed in India on 23 January 2017
Ah, Jodi Picoult. As a long time reader of her books, I have to say that she does come with some incredibly interesting and thought provoking plot lines and her books have just the right amount of description, character building and suspense. However, over time, I am noticing a certain structure to her novels that it is keeping them from being exceptional. Small Great Things is a great title for a novel that deals with the relevant and controversial topic of racism–both overt and benevolent. This was a chance for Picoult to break away from her conventional multiple narrative structure and really focus on a single theme, rather than juggling multiple characters at the same time. To me, the novel should have either focused on the character of Ruth, an African-American nurse who has played by the rules all the her life, only to find herself grievously disadvantaged in the face of justice, or Kennedy McQuarry a young, white Public Defender who believes herself to be above prejudice. The flip flopping between Ruth's perspective and Kennedy's perspective did not really bring out the inner contradictions between how we see ourselves and how we appear to others, instead it played Ruth off against Kennedy and Kennedy against Ruth. The ending was also extremely disappointing, with too many issues being too neatly resolved and too many important issues not being touched upon. Several characters, including Ruth's colleagues, received superficial treatment when it would have actually been far more useful to have had a broader understanding of their actions and motivations, so as better to tackle what drives racial inequality in society. I thought the character of Turk Bauer, a white supremacist was fairly well written and was not surprised to find that Picoult had done her homework and interviewed people with similar background. I strongly recommend that Picoult breaks out of her writing comfort zone and gives her well researched novels the depth they deserve.