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Book Review: Small Great Things – Another Fabulous Book by Jodi Picoult

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things

A Novel

by Jodi Picoult

Ruth is the daughter of a housekeeper. When school was out, she and her sister would go with their Mama to the big house. They either stayed quietly in the kitchen while their mother worked or sometimes play with the daughter of the family. On one such day a premature baby shaped the three young girl’s lives. Ruth grew up to become a labor and delivery nurse. But more importantly, it was a moment of perfect harmony between classes and races that Ruth would not see again for many years.

Fast forward from 1976 to current day and we find Ruth still doing what she loves. She helps bring new babies into the world, comforts new parents and even helps ease the unspeakable burden when something goes terribly wrong. Until the fateful day she had to decide between the orders she was given and trying to save a baby’s life. No matter what choice she made it was not going to be right, but she could have never imagined she would have ended up in jail for murder.

Enter Turk. He and his wife are in the hospital for the delivery of their first child. Everything was going great until Ruth came in to check on the newborn and his mother. Turk demanded to see Ruth’s supervisor then insisted Ruth was not to come near his child. For no other reason other than he was a White Supremacist and she is an African American. Did his actions lead to the death of his firstborn.

Kennedy is the public defender that is given the task of sorting the details out to defend Ruth in court. She normally doesn’t take cases of this magnitude, but after the initial court appearance, she is compelled to help Ruth. But can her upper class back ground understand the issues of a black woman and defend her?

Jodi Picoult takes social issues out of the headlines, researches the issues from every side and then researches some more. The facts and interviews are fictionalized, and then put together in a way that leaves each side distinguishable and intact, yet interacting with the other sides. One of my professors in college used to say the United States used to be a melting pot, but was now a tossed salad – with lots of individual parts adding to it each keeping their individuality. Some of the ingredients are sweet, some are sour, and some are unknown until you give them a try. This is how I see Picoult’s characters; they are rich, full and different as day and night but are put together for some reason and have to work it out – much like real life.

I am the first one to say Jodi Picoult is, in my opinion, one of the greatest authors today. I have read almost all of her books. She has made me laugh, cry, or become outraged over the issues her characters faced that often seem so unfair. I can honestly say I have never finished one of her books without talking about it to everyone I know that reads and loaning them out so others will enjoy them also.

On a personal note, I’ve met her at several book signings and book talks. She is as delightful in person as she seems in interviews and online. If you get a chance to go to one of her book talks and signings, please do so.

Small Great Things will be available on October 11, 2016 and you can pre-order it now at your favorite bookstore.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Caught Dead by Andrew Lanh – Magnificent Multicultural Mystery

Caught-Dead-cover-70x106Caught Dead – A Rick Van Lam Mystery

Andrew Lanh

Private eye Rich Van Lam is a man with no country and two countries. Being the son of a Vietnamese woman and a U.S. soldier living in Hartford, Connecticut isn’t easy. He isn’t always accepted by the Americans, not even the father he has never met. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even know his father’s name.

The large Vietnamese community shuns him, distrustful of the mixed race man who they feel has forgotten his heritage and is considered “one of the dust” to them. The forgotten offspring the military left in Vietnam when they came home from the war.

But now they are calling him to help solve the murder of one of the most loved members of the Vietnamese community. Mary Le Vu is found dead in an area that no person, unless they are looking for a drug deal or hooker would be caught dead. Yet that is exactly where Mary is murdered.

Van Lam and his partner Hank Nguyen begin the difficult job of talking to families and friends that don’t fully trust either man. The only way they are getting any information is through the doors Nguyen can open due to the fact he is full-blooded Vietnamese.

Just when the case starts to move forward, Mary’s sister is murdered. Is this a family vendetta? The same person must be responsible for these deaths, but there aren’t many connections between the women. Sure, they spend time together, tell each other secrets and obviously are related. But one sister is poor, the other is rich. One leads a life of service, the other “hosts” fundraisers. Both have children that are troubled at best, worst case they might be criminal. More questions arise the deeper the PIs dig.

 

The twists and turns kept me reading late into the night to see what else was going to happen. The struggle Van Lam has trying to establish his identity within the Vietnamese community is both heartwarming and sad.  Lanh brings this conflict into the story with beautifully haunting prose, “…the man would never like me, I knew, blaming me for the death of his serene life in the old homeland…”.

I wanted to read this book quickly because the mystery intrigued me, but the beauty of the words made me slow down to enjoy it more. I really enjoyed Lanh’s easy style of writing that tells the reader volumes with his perfectly chosen narrative. Both Van Lam and Nguyen are likeable, fallible characters that I can’t wait to read about again.

Caught Dead is the first book in this series. The second of the series, Return to Dust has been added to my reading list.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

 

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