Published by Ballantine Books on October 11th 2016
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Received from the Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse (she has been for 20 years). One day she goes in to do a new Mother and Infant check and the parents are not too friendly, in fact, they are hostile. The exam ends when the father tells her to get away from his wife. He then goes on to tell Ruth’s supervisor that no African American hospital staff are to touch his son. A post it note is put in the chart and Ruth is made aware of this as she is the only African American working in the Labor and delivery department. The parents are white supremacists. Ruth is upset but agrees to comply.
The next day Ruth is left alone in a room with the baby after he is circumcised and the baby goes into distress. What is Ruth to do. There is a note in the chart saying no African Americans are to touch the baby, but the baby needs medical help. She has taken the Oath a nurse takes. Does she listen to her supervisor and the note, does she act? What is the woman supposed to do. What is right and what is wrong. Her supervisor comes in and tells her to act, she performs CPR but unfortunately that baby dies.
Ruth is charged with Murder. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t comes to mind for this circumstance. She is arrested along with her teenage son by police who enter her home at 3 a.m. She is represented the next day by a white female public defender named Kennedy who advises Ruth that race has no room in the court room. It is not a winning strategy.
For Ruth, race has everything to do with her arrest and the charges against her. We see how people react to her. Ruth goes to the cafeteria to get something for her self and staff asks her if she needs help while at the same time pulling her purse closer to herself. We see Ruth followed closely while shopping for a present. She is approached several times and upon leaving the store, her receipt and bag are checked.
The story progresses and we see who Ruth and Kennedy begin to trust each other and let the other one in. I thought it was a great learning experience for both of them but mainly for Kennedy.
Race is a big subject to take on. I thought that Picoult did a very good job with it. At least in my mind she did. She showed us several families. The white supremacists, Ruth, her son and her sister, and Kennedy’s family. I thought she did a good job with those. She was able to show how characters so full of hate could also be full of love. That is a tricky thing but it is real. How a person can love their child, their spouse yet hate others so deeply. She also showed how people don’t want to be seen as racists and how people don’t either see or want to acknowledge there is a problem because the problem does not affect them.
Ruth’s trial begins and I thought Picoult did the courtroom scenes very well. Character dynamics, relationships, fear, loss, regret, wanting to have your say, to tell the truth, to have justice, revenge all come into play.
There is a reveal at the end of the book that was interesting and I did not see coming.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think this is a perfect book for book clubs. Lots of great discussions can be had.