Love seems to actually trump hate in this frighteningly timely novel by Jodi Picoult. It begins when a Black labor and delivery nurse, Ruth, begins to care for the baby of a White supremacist couple and the couple insist that she be removed from their case because of her race. As it would happen, Ruth is alone with the baby when the baby stops breathing. Should she touch the baby and save him, as she is trained to do? Should she abide by the racist rules the hospital has imposed at the request of this repugnant couple? What happens next sets Ruth and the couple and ultimately, Ruth’s lawyer, Kennedy, on a road to grappling with race as it is seen from all perspectives.
Little did I know that I’d be reading this amidst the worst campaign and most devastating election outcome in the history of the United States. The spillage of racism, misogyny, and bigotry that has poured out of the mouth of the Republican party nominee and his bedfellows has unleashed the underbelly of this country and its darkest side. The election result has spawned a crippling shadow over my whole universe and I know this has been true for over half of this country. We are embarrassed to call ourselves American, as it associates us with this new, evil and mean rhetoric in the eyes and ears of the rest of the world. This is not the country I have known to be the home of the free.
And so it was, amidst my deepest disappointment that has sent me into a physical nausea that I cannot shake, that I read how Kennedy, seeking to defend Ruth in her ultimate trial, really tries to understand the day to day psychological beating that Ruth endures as a Black woman in a white man’s world. The small slips, the subtle differences in perception, and the more overt signs of difference from which Kennedy is protected because of the color of her skin. And while the 2 butt heads, they also come together because of the genuine efforts to try to understand each other, which is the foundation of the beginning of actually understanding each other.
Unfortunately for this story, love trumps hate in sort of a too perfect way by the end, so that it becomes a little fairytale-like as an ending. I pray for this country, though, that we can reach an understanding that even remotely approximates this ending – for the good of our present and the good of our future.