I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual -- until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” However, Ruth’s nursing colleague is called away on an emergency C section and Ruth is the only person in the nursery when the baby has cardiac/respiratory failure. After a brief hesitation – she intervenes – and yet, the baby dies. Not long after that, Ruth learns she has been charged with negligent homicide by the state. Ruth’s attorney is a white woman -Kennedy McQuarrie- who would not consider herself a racist by any means. Like Ruth, she has a child. But unlike Ruth, her family has never had to think about race on a daily basis. As the two women form an alliance, and then an unlikely friendship, Kennedy begins to see that racism isn’t just about intent, but power. That even if Skinheads like Turk did not exist, Ruth would still be fighting an uphill battle. And she begins to seek a way to make a predominantly white jury see that they are responsible for the house they did not build…but in which they live.
I haven't read a Jodi Picoult book in a while, mainly because I thought her books had become very predictable and her writing style just didn't appeal to me. I was very interested in the premise of this one so I decided to give it a chance and I am so glad I did.
There are three POVs: Ruth (the African-American nurse who is fired after a baby dies on her watch), Turk (white skinhead and the father of the baby who died), and Kathleen (the do-good public defender). This is a very tough book to read, especially the chapters with Turk's POV. There were times I felt sorry for Turk because he did lose a baby, but he was filled with so much anger and he lashes out at every single person who is different from him. He made my blood boil many times so it was tough to feel any empathy towards him. I thought this book did a good job of pointing out the differences between the obvious racism of Turk and the subtle racism that Kathleen is guilty of. Kathleen is a typical do-gooder who is trying to save the world, but she is also oblivious to her own white privilege and her own bias. She said things that made me cringe, like asking Ruth's teenage son if he was happy that Obama was elected or saying that she doesn't even see race. But I could see myself in Kathleen. I am sure there have been instances where I showed bias and didn't even realize it. Kathleen also ignored Ruth's experiences and dismissed the notion that her race had anything to do with why she was on trial and no one else. I thought Ruth's chapters were very well done and I liked the developing friendship between Ruth and Kathleen, especially when Kathleen seemed to finally understand that Ruth's experiences were different solely because of her race.
It's hard to get into everything that happens in this book because I don't want to give away spoilers or anything. I did think the criminal trial was a little unrealistic, especially since there wasn't any evidence that Ruth's actions (or inactions) led to the baby's death and I also thought Turk's character development was a bit too hasty for me. Maybe things just ended too happily for my tastes. Reading the author's notes at the end, it is obvious that she put her heart and soul into this book. She did her research. It's hard to put into words just how this book made me feel and how it made me think, but I think it's such an important one to read.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.