Book Review: Small Great Things

September 20, 2017

Small Great Things
Jodi Picoult
481 pages
library copy

From the publisher: 

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.


Wow.  Just Wow. I read a lot of books and some books, I’ll admit, I read and forget about, and some books really stick with me.  This book falls under the later.  I’ve only read one other book by Picoult, (The Storyteller, you can read my post here) and it was the same way.  In fact, after I read it I couldn’t read another book for a while.  I finished this book this morning and have been left with the same feeling.  I just want to sit and THINK after reading this book.

This book addresses the topic of racism in America.  It is NOT a light read.  It’s a tough one and really makes you wonder.  What have my actions and attitudes looked like?  I grew up in the south.  Did I witness actions like this book – YES. Sadly I did.  I even grew up in a small, rural town, which I think makes it worse. Do I think racism is alive in America today.  YES. I grew up in a high school where black people sat on one side of the cafeteria and white people on the other. It was the norm. I thought it was by choice.  But was it?  But do I consider my actions racist?  I consider myself a kind and loving person, but this book makes you exam everything.

This book is told from three different points of view.  One is Turk, the white supremacist, another from Ruth, the African American nurse, and one more from Kennedy, the white lawyer.  I had a super hard time reading Turk’s chapters.  It was just so hard to stomach his thoughts, feelings and actions.  It’s hard to express my feelings about him without spoiling the whole book.

Small Great Things is not for the faint of heart.  It discusses a tough topic and really makes you exam your actions.  There are some graphic scenes that might be hard for some to read or make you squeamish.  If you are a sensitive reader to bad language this is not the book for you.  This book is being made into a movie – and if you count the number of bad words alone, it would be rated R.  I am curios to see how the movie turns out.  The movie stars Julia Roberts and Viola Davis and I they are exactly who I see when I think about the characters in this book.

Overall I loved this book and suggest everyone should read it or exam their life and think about racism and their actions.  One thing think this book taught me was that we all could do better in this category.

We can all do small things in a great way.


A few read alike books: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelley, A Time To Kill by John Grisham (throwing it way back to the 80s with that one!), Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler, The Help by Kathryn Stockett and any other Jodi Picoult book.

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