A really good (holiday) read - Small Great Things
If you like your holiday reading to be easy going, dip-in/dip-out; the literary equivalent of paddling your feet in the waves, then Small Great Things isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you prefer your beach book to be utterly gripping and compelling; the page-turning equivalent of taking a full-on swim in the waves, then it definitely is.
Fans of Jodie Piccolt will know she has the skill to deliver heart-wrenchingly engaging stories. There's a reason she has 24 best-sellers, including My Sister's Keeper, to her name. This isn't a new book (the hardback was first published in the UK in 2016), but it is her most recent, and the one at the top of my holiday reading pile. My only problem now, is will any of the others match up to it.
What a riveting, powerful, emotionally wringing story this is. Ruth is a highly experienced, deeply committed maternity nurse, who has raised her son single-handed since her husband was killed in action in Afghanistan. She is also an African American. Turk is a man who believes in the ultimate supremacy of the white race. He is also the father of a new-born baby who goes into cardiac arrest whilst under Ruth's supervision. The supervision of a woman he has expressly instructed is not permitted to touch his son. Kennedy is a public defender who has dedicated herself to her work with disadvantaged and minority defendants. She is also a white woman.
The story of what happens when, in spite of the best efforts of the medical team, the baby dies and Ruth is charged with his murder, is told through the eyes of the three individuals. The distraught, vengeful father; the bewildered then furiously frustrated nurse and the lawyer who will come to question everything she believed about her principles.
In her author's note, Piccolt says that she has wanted to write about racism for a long time, but couldn't find the right story to tell. Well, she certainly has now. And it's not just racism she tackles in the course of this engrossing novel, she also takes on prejudice, privilege, compassion and justice, never allowing there to be any easy answers.
True at times she gets a little preachy, her intensity can get the better of her, but honestly that's a small gripe in the context of a book that gripped, absorbed and emotionally exhausted me. Good job I read most of it horizontal on a sun lounger. Which is another reason why it's such a great holiday read. Or for any other time or place, come to that.
What are your holiday read recommendations? I'd love to know!
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