Ruth, a midwife is told not to touch a child because she is black, but when he is struggling she can’t help but try to help him survive. And when he dies, the angry, white-supremacist parents decide to take her to court. After a lifetime of trying to fit in, Ruth comes to realise how much she has to fight against constantly because of her race, and finds herself trying to get lawyer ??? onside. ???
A courier arrived at my door with a black envelope. And inside, was this book. No title. No named author. No clues. And at the back, anything that would point to who it is is redacted. The true sign of things being exciting! So obviously I wasn’t sure what to expect, though the cover obviously suggests it’s going to be about racism. But it was excellent, managing both to make important points about racism and to tell a fantastic and human story.
It’s a court case story. Which felt pretty familiar to me as last year my husband and I spent hours listening to both Grisham’s A Time to Kill, which was also based on racism, and the fantastic podcast Serial about a court case. It felt very like Grisham’s book, but actually was pretty different once I got into it.
The start was gripping, but difficult, as it’s all about babies, and the baby that dies. Which is pretty difficult anyway, but I had a baby this year, and still feel quite sensitive about that time at the start where they are so fragile. But it was, probably, a necessary set up.
It goes into both sides of the story extremely well. Like (I hope), most people, I’m immediately on Ruth’s side here. But here we are taken into the backgrounds of the white supremacist couple, and though we don’t exactly get to being sympathetic towards them, we certainly understand them a bit more. And they’re not presented as one dimensional people to despise, and they change and grow and learn, which I really appreciated.
All the characters were great, really. Ruth’s gradual realisation of what she has always been up against and decision to stand up for herself is presented exceptionally well, and also cleverly guides the reader who thinks but we’re not racist any more or even but I’m not racist at all to realisations of how the world really is. I know I’ve made conscious decisions to change how I think of things from reading this book, and I hated racism even before I’d read it.The relations between characters are brilliant too. I love the ways they interact, balance each other out and learn from each other.
As I write this, I’m listening to a report of another young black man who has been shot to death in America. This is pretty blatant racism which surely something must be done about. But this book highlights more subtle racism that is completely present in England as well as America.
I don’t know who wrote it. I think I’ll be able to find out on twitter, but wanted to write my reaction first. I assumed it was Malorie Blackman at first because of the similarity in book covers, but it would be too simple, and doesn’t really read like that. I don’t really mind who it is, but I hope people read it, and I hope it makes a difference.
I just googled and found out who the author is. OMG! I would never have read it if I had known! But I’m glad I did, so good job, Hodder and Stoughton. Some things make sense now though…