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.
Song For This Book: Rockabye Baby
Why? This song was in my head throughout reading this book.
Jodi Picoult is one of those authors where I pick and choose whether to read her books. I generally like the ones I do read, but have no problem skipping over ones that don’t immediately capture my interest. This book fell somewhere in the middle of interesting and not my thing, so when I saw it on sale, I decided that I may as well give it a go.
And I’m definitely glad I did. It’s a hard hitting book that tackles some pretty difficult subjects, but ones that are very relevant to the time we’re living in. We get to see many different sides to the same story – the perspective of Ruth, of Turk, and of Kennedy, who each see the world in a different way.
The Good Points of Small Great Things:
I’m hesitant to talk too much about the race issues in this book, because, as someone who grew up in a very white area, I don’t feel I know enough to comment on such things. But I did love the idea Picoult plays with of active and passive racism. It was well put, and definitely an eye opener for how difficult and complex racism can be.
One thing I always appreciate about Picoult’s books is that, despite their complex trials and lawsuits, they always so easy to read. She doesn’t dumb it down, but she is great at making sure that the reader understands what is going on.
I loved Edison’s character. We don’t get his perspective through the book, but I loved his reactions and his experimentations and his ideas. It was a wonderful portrayal of how teenagers cope and try to figure out difficult things.
While the ending did feel like it was grasping at straws for a good kicker, I did like it. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was a fun twist.
The Downsides of Small Great Things:
I have read quite a few of Picoult’s books by this point, and I’m starting to feel that’s majorly stuck in a rut. This book follows the exact same pattern as most of the other ones I’ve read – event, lawyer from a different world, coming together, trial starts, defendant wants to say their piece, lawyer says no, defendant does it anyway, big twist, everything coming together in the end. It’s getting a little boring.
This book was way too long for the amount of story in it. It just dragged like crazy, and while it was good, it could have been done in far less pages.
As much as I liked the twist, it was super cheesy and a bit of a cop-out. With how many books and good twists, Picoult has written, I had my hopes up higher for this one.
This book was just a bit boring. There was lots of great stuff in it, but nothing surprising or new or exciting. And, again, because of how many great books and twists and plots Picoult has written, I had higher expectations for this one.
All in all, Small Great things has some good moments and has some that are a bit disappointing. I liked the way that it discussed racism, and I loved Edison’s character, but it did find the book overall a bit dull. If you like hard hitting books, books with great characters, or books revolving around complicated course cases, you’ll probably enjoy Small Great Things.
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