Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Small Great Things

Small Great Things
By Jodi Picoult
Published: October 11, 2016

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My review:

Ruth is really good at her job as a labor and delivery nurse. She is also a loving mom to her son Edison. Life has its ups and downs but she is pretty happy. She loves her work and even has some good friends there but then an incident happens that calls everything she'd believed into question. A white supremacist family asks that Ruth be taken off their baby's case and her supervisor puts a note on the baby's file that African American nurses cannot care for the baby per the family's request (Ruth is the only African American nurse there). When Ruth is watching the nursery for another nurse, the baby has trouble breathing. Ruth is later accused by the father of murdering the baby and much to Ruth's shock, her so-called friends don't exactly stick up for her.

Small Great Things looks at race relations, racism and hidden racism in America through the eyes of Ruth, her white lawyer Kennedy and Turk Bauer, the white supremacist father of the baby. Kennedy believes she is not racist but the time she spends with Ruth and working on the case causes her to question her own beliefs and behavior. Turk is a nasty character but through him the reader gets a view of the white supremacist movement. 

I think the author does a good job of presenting the various viewpoints but it was Ruth who really captured my attention. I felt so bad for her and what she was going through and I admired her as well. I liked Kennedy as well though I felt frustrated with her as well. She had a good heart but she had a lot to learn about the world. Turk was almost a flat character in comparison and I found it hard to buy into the resolution of his storyline. One interesting thing was that in the courtroom, it is inadvisable to bring up race as supposedly justice is colorblind. That seems crazy to me and Ruth felt the same way. She just wanted a chance to share her story and have the truth be heard.

Jodi Picoult's books are definitely hit or miss with me. I was pretty disappointed by Leaving Time but I still wanted to give Small Great Things a try. I was relieved to find it was one of her better books. It definitely made me feel some strong emotions, mostly anger on Ruth's behalf.  Small Great Things was a thought provoking and "unputdownable" story.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss


  1. I'm happy to hear that this one worked for you. Can you believe I have never read Jodi Picoult before?!? Maybe I will start with this one. Great review, Christina!

  2. I had a hard time with this book, and it sounds like we struggled with a lot of the same issues. One of my biggest was also Turk- his story line had a really negative effect on my ability to buy into the plot.


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