The story of Ruth Jefferson, a midwife – delivery nurse, as they’re called in America – , who happens to be black, is asked to stop looking after a child because the parents are white supremacists and want no one of colour to touch their child.
The cogs of this inciting incident move in ways you would expect. Ruth is rightfully angry that her boss would allow this level of discrimination to be practised against her and when she is left alone to monitor the baby she has been asked not to touch, and he has trouble breathing and eventually dies (I’m leaving out her actions so as not to spoil the finer points), you can see where the white supremacists might go next. Ruth is put on trial for murder.
Where the story goes then, though, is not predictable. Ruth’s isn’t the only voice we hear. The white supremacist father, Turk, also has a voice, and so does Ruth’s lawyer, Kennedy. At every turn racism in America is brought under the microscope, challenging characters in ways they didn’t anticipate. The fact that it is still a subject mostly avoided, especially by white authors who make up the majority of published voices in the English-speaking market, makes this novel all the more fascinating. Continue reading