Author: Jodi Picoult
Published: April 11, 2017
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 19-29, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
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.
This is a very intense and difficult read and it will be just as difficult to review because it deals with very sensitive topics: Race and prejudice. We have three points of view throughout the novel:
Ruth Jefferson- An African American nurse with over 20 years of experience.
Turk Bauer- The father of the newborn and white supremacist.
Kennedy McQuarrie- A white public defender.
We learn about their pasts as well as the current chain of events. We also meet their families through their backstories. Turk is very much a character of pure hate.
Everything with Small Great Things is compelling. You have no idea how Picoult is going to end this story. The trial is engrossing and I wanted to continue listening to the audiobook. The climax and ending come out of left field and were so extreme that it was unfortunately not believable. ‘Stage Three’ which also serves as the Epilogue gave me some chills.
This is a novel that will keep you thinking about the issue of race long after you have finished it. There is also an important Author’s Note which I would tell you to read. Picoult took a risk being a white woman and writing on the issue of race from an African American woman’s perspective, but handled it with grace and well researched with interviews.
In addition to listening to the audiobook, I also have a UK paperback edition. This included a short story from Ruth’s childhood where she also dealt with the issue of race. This short story shows how cruel children really can be.
Despite the unbelievable ending, Small Great Things is recommended. It is supposed to become a movie as some point and I will watch it.