Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is the first book I’ve ever read by this author.While I was familiar with the author’s name, the result of one of my favorite pastimes which is to wander through bookstores, I had purposefully avoided buying her books. I thought that they were fodder for Lifetime movies and it’s been years since I’ve been in the mood for Lifetime movies or the books that inspire them.
But, I had been reading two books on politics and felt an acute need to escape reality by drowning myself in fiction. I also wanted a page-turner that would grab me from page one.
My book search led me time and time again to Small Great Things. Still, I resisted for a while, until I didn’t; perhaps because besides the positive reviews, I found the book’s cover attractive. It is very similar to an image that I love and used back in July 2014 in the post announcing that I was launching a section on books. Now, you know it all. I can be both, quite the snob and quite superficial in my reading choices.
But on to the review, Small Great Things, caught me completely by surprise. From the quality of the writing to the subject matter, this is not a book to ignore. This is a book about race and racism, about the ways we are torn apart by our experiences and biases, and about the ways we’re brought together despite them. The book is told from different perspectives. At times it was hard to read the racist’s passages because his thoughts and feelings seemed so real, so full of hatred. I was appalled by them.
Days later, after finishing the book, I continue to think about it, to wander. What if those who choose division and conflict over unity and peace are usually full of anger and hatred not so much because of what they feel about others, but because of what they feel about themselves? I’m not only referring to the low self-esteem that is usual in these types of personalities. I’m saying that if humans are intrinsically good, as I believe, wouldn’t they hate themselves for treating others hatefully, even if their self-hatred would be so deep in their psyche that it could not be acknowledged? I think that there’s something to that.
The book is also about family and family dynamics, about their fragility and also their resilience.
I’ve read criticism about the book’s ending, that considering the complexity of the subject, it all ends too neatly. But, who is to say what is believable these days? If the past few months have taught us anything is that anything is possible, and speaking of the last few months, this book is very timely. It needs to be read NOW.