Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things, A Novel by Jodi Picoult

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  105,415 Ratings  ·  12,597 Reviews
Small Great Things, A Novel by Jodi Picoult download it for free here
Small Great Things, A Novel by Jodi Picoult
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.


     “The State just sees a dead baby. They’re targeting you because they think you failed as a nurse.”
    “You’re wrong.” I shake my head in the darkness, and I say the words I’ve swallowed down my whole life. “They’re targeting me because I’m Black."

4 1/2 stars. I have some issues with the ending, but otherwise Small Great Things is such a pageturner. It's the kind of book you can easily stay up until 2am to finish (even without the teething infant to help you along). True, it's Racism 101 for white Americans, but I kind of think it's a message they need to hear.

You know, I guess I had some prejudice against Jodi Picoult before going into this. I had only read one book by her - My Sister's Keeper - and that was at least ten years ago. In my mind, I've always associated her with mindless chick lit novels, especially because people were comparing her to Liane Moriarty on my less than favorable review of Truly Madly Guilty. But if this book is anything to go by, she's vicious.

Small Great Things is a horrible, emotive book that puts both racism and white privilege on trial in a nail-biting courtroom drama.

It all starts when Ruth Jefferson, a black Labor & Delivery nurse, is told to keep away from the newborn son of white supremacists. On the busy ward, though, it is Ruth who finds herself the only nurse in the room when the baby goes into cardiac distress. She hesitates and is arrested on suspicion of not just negligence, but of racially-charged murder.

    How am I supposed to encourage my son to be better than most people expect him to be? How can I say, with a straight face, you can be anything you want in this world - when I struggled and studied and excelled and still wound up on trial for something I did not do?

The story moves between the perspectives of Ruth, her white public defender - Kennedy McQuarrie, and the neo-nazi father of the deceased child. Picoult develops all her characters, even painting in a back story for the repulsive Turk Bauer, never allowing him to simply be a villain without context. His life is revealed to us, as is his nauseating journey to white supremacism.

I think this book works so well because it isn't so much about portraying racism through a black woman's eyes as it is about a white "definitely not racist" lawyer facing up to her white privilege, acknowledging its existence, and using it for good. And no, that doesn't mean using it to speak for minorities; it means using it to give them a platform to tell their own story.

Small Great Things could have been all kinds of wrong if the white author had attempted to be a spokesperson for black Americans - but it is instead an appeal to white people to open their eyes. Stop pretending white privilege doesn't exist. There's a tendency among white Americans and Europeans to believe that "I'm not racist" or "I don't even see colour" is somehow good enough. It's not good enough. Not seeing colour is a luxury that only white people have, and most often it's a lie anyway.

Look at me. I consider myself an open-minded, forward-thinking person. Yeah, I give myself a little mental pat on the back for pointing out sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia in books. I'm a dirty liberal (Bernie Sanders is ♥), a former Politics major, with a badass gay brother, a Muslim best friend, and a mixed race baby boy. I'm like a poster child for annoying, white femi-liberal. But a few months ago I noticed something different on Kirkus Reviews. I noticed that all their reviews now state the race of the characters. For example "this white teen" or "the white protagonist". And my first instinct was confusion - why are they doing that? Why do they feel the need to tell us that she's white? It took me several fucking weeks for it to come crashing down on me like a fat ton of white privilege. The question I should have been asking wasn't "why are they telling me they're white?" but "why didn't I need to be told that?" and "why did I assume they were white in the first place?" That was the problem all along. I looked at that and immediately thought it was unnecessary in a way that I didn't feel it was unnecessary to be told if a character was black. Because white is the default. Still. Today. In 2016. Even by rainbow flag-waving weirdos like me. If you say "person", we assume white. And that, my friends, is white privilege.

This book is about all the ways, big and small, life is made more or less restrictive for someone because of the colour of their skin. Kennedy tries to tell herself over and over that the case isn't about race, that racial politics have no place in a courtroom, but as the trial wears on, she can't ignore it. Race is in the courtroom; it always has been.

Everything was going great until the epilogue. I think I understand it - the author probably wanted to show what could happen in an ideal world if white people check their privilege - but it is a little too idealistic, oversimplifying the solution to racism, hate crime and hundreds of years of American history. While the optimism after such an emotionally draining read is welcome, it feels out of place. A book like this gains strength from its realism, not its hopeful fantasies.

I could probably write a twelve page review on everything I want to talk about from this book, everything I learned from this book. However, my reviews are long as it is so I will try my best to keep it short (well...shorter than twelve pages).

I have read every book by Jodi Picoult and they all make me think. As I've said before I always learn something too. But I feel like this book is the one that hit me hardest. I learned so much and from the moment I started reading it, it has been on my mind.

Ruth Jefferson is the widowed mother of one teenage son, Edison. Her husband died during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. She is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital. A highly skilled nurse with more than twenty years experience.

While doing a regular check-up on a newborn baby, Ruth notices the mother and father glaring at her. She also notices a tattoo on the father's arm. It's a tattoo of a Confederate flag. Only a few minutes later, Ruth is told by her supervisor that she's been reassigned and she's not to touch the Bauer baby. She finds out that the parents are white supremacists and they don't want, Ruth, who is African-American, anywhere near their baby.

The next day at the hospital Ruth happens to be alone in the hospital nursery when the Bauer baby goes into cardiac distress. Ruth has not idea what to do. Does she obey the orders she's been given? Or should she intervene to help the baby who's clearly in need of help?

The story is told from three points of view. The nurse (Ruth), the public defender (Kennedy), and the white supremacist father (Turk).

What Ruth does and doesn't do ends up with her being brought up on serious charges. Kennedy McQuarrie is the white public defender that takes her case. But Ruth doesn't know if she can trust her. Can Kennedy possibly ever understand what life is like for Ruth? They will need to work together. Can Ruth let go of some of the control she's held tightly to all of her life but still say what she really feels? Will Kennedy be able to face the things she learns not only about others but also about herself?

As the trial also plays out in the media it starts to affect Ruth's son. Edison struggles with comments made to him in regards to the color of his skin. Some of these comments hurt even more because they are coming from life-long friends. Ruth's son is an honours student that has always stayed out of trouble. But will what's happening with his mother derail all of his plans?

When I read the first sentence from Turk's point of view, I instantly hated him. I thought there was no way I would find anything redeeming in this character. We read a lot about Turk's upbringing. How he got involved with "The Movement" and the horrible things he had done. We also learn how him and his wife, Brittany met and the life they lived.

This book took me about a week to read. Not because I didn't have time but because I just found it very hard to read at times. The time spent reading Turk's point of view were anxiety inducing. I just couldn't understand such an extreme hatred. It made me angry, sad, and uncomfortable. But maybe that's a good thing?

A quote from the author's note...

"I wrote it because I believed it was the right thing to do, and because the things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know"

I had many conversations with my daughter, mother and friends about racism and racism awareness while reading this book. So many things I didn't even realize that still go on. Not all white supremacists walk around with shaved heads and tattoos letting us know what they stand for. Now they have the internet to network and have learned to hide in plain sight and that is beyond terrifying.

I thought this book was very well written. It was easy to follow the alternating points of view and the characters were so well-developed. As usual I can tell how much research went into this book. Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me with how she can both entertain and teach me with her books.

There's so much more I want to say but I will stop here. Although "Small Great Things" is tough to read at times, I think it's an important read and I highly recommend it.

5 strong stars. Heart wrenching story of a labor & delivery nurse accused of murder by a white supremacist.

Jodi Picoult's forthcoming book is brilliant! I lost a lot of sleep in my need to find out what happened, while greatly enjoying the journey! I don't want to give away any spoilers in this review, so will cover the story in a nutshell -- while urging readers to check this one out!!

Ruth is a highly competent African American labor & delivery nurse with over 20 years of experience and no marks against her record. One day, she is assigned the care of Davis, a baby of white supremacist parents, who tell the hospital in no uncertain terms that they won't have their child being nursed by "someone who looks like Ruth". Astonishingly, the in-charge nurse puts a post-it note in the patient file prohibiting African American nurses from caring for the baby (by the way, Ruth is the only one).... Later, tragedy befalls Davis after a routine medical procedure -- and the hospital (and the white supremacist family) assign blame to Ruth. The District Attorney agrees and files murder charges. Ruth is defended by Kennedy, a middle-class Caucasian female.

The story-line is compelling. The character development is rich. The tension mounts in the plot. Put together, these elements make a 5+ star book!!!

There are lots of questions to be answered .... What will happen to Ruth? What will become of the family who lost their child? What is prejudice -- and how does that compare with discrimination? Should race be a factor in a courtroom? How does this tragedy and its repercussions impact Ruth's son and other close family members? How does defending Ruth impact Kennedy and her family? The author answers these questions and more with tact and empathy. I was very moved by this story!!!

The only element of this book that I did not love was the way that things seemed to come together a bit too neatly in the Epilogue. While this was heartwarming, it felt a bit cliché (or even contrived). This was a very small part of the story overall and certainly did not bother me even enough to deduct any stars from this phenomenal story!!

Favorite Quotes:
"WE ALL DO IT, YOU KNOW. Distract ourselves from noticing how time's passing. We throw ourselves into our jobs. We focus on keeping the blight off our tomato plants. .... And then one day, you turn around, and your baby is a man. .... And you think, How did this happen so fast?"

Why is the title Small Great Things?
" If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." - Dr. Martin Luther King

I highly recommend Small Great Things to all readers of Contemporary, Historical, or Women's Fiction. Small Great Things grabs you into the story from the start and doesn't let go --- even after you've finished the book. The author provides much food for thought -- regardless of your race or origin -- it's about people.

"Suddenly Roarke Matthews is standing in front of me. His suit is ironed
with knife-edge pleats, his shoes are buffed to a high gloss. He looks like a soap
opera star, except his nose is a off-kilter, like he broke it playing football in high school.
He holds out a hand to greet me. 
"Mr. Bauer, he says, why don't you come with me?"
"He leads me into an even more imposing office, this one full of black leather and
chrome, and gestures to a spot on the love seat.
"Let me say again how sorry I am for your loss," Matthews says, like everyone else does these days. The words have gotten so ordinary in fact that they feel like rain; I hardly even notice them anymore. "On the phone, we talk about the possibility of filing a civil suit..."
"Whatever it's called", I interrupt. "I just want someone to pay for this".
"Ah," Matthews says. " And that is why I have asked you to come in here. You see, it's quite complicated."
"What's so complicated? You sue the nurse. She's the one who did this."
Matthews hesitates. "You could sue Ruth Jefferson," he agrees. "But let's be realistic--she doesn't have a pot to piss in. As you know, there's a criminal prosecution underway that the state has undertaken. That means if you file a civil suit simultaneously, Ms. Jefferson would ask for a stay of all discovery, so she couldn't incriminate herself during the pending criminal prosecution. And the fact that you filed a civil suit against her can be used against you in a cross examination during the criminal lawsuit."
"I don't understand."

The question is.....will you understand what hit *YOU*, once you've finished this brilliant novel?
......however, I couldn't wait for a book discussion on this one.... released in stores early Oct. [SURE TO BE A NUMBER #1 BEST SELLER]
So, I involved Paul, my husband...(bedtime entertainment). We had some lengthy conversations. Paul's words.. "A 'no-win' situation from the start".

Jodi Picoult explores areas of race discrimination, race prejudice, race snobbery, anti-semitism, and injustice from every corner of the earth's hemisphere.
Jodi blew my mind over a Kosher candy bar. REALLY? Who thinks like this?
Geeezzzzz! Jodi continued to 'blow my mind' ... several more times before reaching the final end....until I'm thinking, "I think like this".
This book is long enough - that in time - 'something' is bound to hook, rather trigger
every reader, on their own difficult journey to question their own morally and racial prejudice. In other words...don't be so sure YOU are so pure.

Exquisitely written.....filled with grief - gets under your skin and leaves you changed!!!!

4.5 Stars
Small Great Things.
Powerful. Thought-Provoking. Heartbreaking.

Ruth Jefferson is an L&D Nurse with 20 years of experience, working at a Hospital in West Haven, CT. She gets along well with all of her colleagues and all of her patients love her - that is until she assists Turk Bauer and his wife Brit with their new baby Davis. Turk and Brit are White Supremacists and they don't want Ruth touching their baby because she is black. Due to their feelings, Ruth is ordered by her supervisor not to care for baby Davis Bauer, though it goes against her medical training. Further, Ruth feels that she has been discriminated by the hospital due to her race but she is warned not to play that card.

The next day, Davis goes into distress, with Ruth watching over him in the nursery as no other nurses available but she isn't supposed to touch him - which goes against every fiber of her being. When others arrive, she is given instructions to conduct chest compressions. Nothing works and Davis Bauer doesn't survive. Turk and Britt Bauer blame Ruth and they file a lawsuit. The hospital does whatever it can to protect itself and Ruth becomes the scapegoat. As she can't afford an attorney, she is assigned a white female public defender, Kennedy McQuarrie. While the two don't always see eye to eye, Kennedy does whatever she can to save Ruth from life in prison.

The story alternates between Ruth, Kennedy and Turk’s POVs. For me, Turk’s was the hardest to identify with. I couldn’t find sympathy for him or his wife Brit and pretty much despised them. I know I’m not alone here. I identified most with Kennedy. Not just because she is white as am I. I work in the legal field and I understand her mind and get why she did the things she did and instructed Ruth the way she did. That said, I loved Ruth. Her grit. Her strength. Her smarts. Her unwavering beliefs.

I personally thought Jodi Picoult did a great job writing about an incredibly tough topic, though I would venture to guess that if I were black, I might have another view of this book. It is impossible for us to put ourselves, in someone else’s shoes. All we can do is sympathize and empathize. In the case of race, it is almost impossible. The only possible similarity in my mind is bullying, though I could be wrong. Here racism was brought to the forefront in a myriad of ways. It is in your face. Except for in the news, I hadn't read about White Supremacists previously. To be frank, it's not a topic I want to know much about. People like Turk make me uncomfortable. I would rather pretend he doesn’t exist. Like I said in my first post, I grew up in an affluent town bordering New Haven that was mostly white, and predominantly Jewish (I am not Jewish) from the ages of 7-24 years old. In my 30's I worked in Hartford for three years and I have lived in Connecticut for 36 of my 43 years. I feel ignorant in saying that until reading this, I did not know that White Supremacy groups existed in towns near me. In admitting this I guess you could say that I have led a sheltered life. Now it's possible that pockets don't exist quite near me and that the story just took place in CT (but my thinking that would be terribly naïve) and I'm certainly not going to google white supremacy in CT for fear of being “tagged” or something. That said, maybe this goes on in all of our neighborhoods and I personally never opened my eyes and noticed it. Like I said, rose colored glasses.

I think this books point is to make us question our own behavior. And to make us more aware of how we treat others. And in some small way, perhaps effectuate change.

Now, forgive me but a few things about this novel really bugged the heck out of me. I happen to work in the legal field and I have a working knowledge of that as well as the Connecticut Superior Court System and there were in fact several things that were inaccurate. There is no way that the Mercy-West Haven Hospitals’ Risk Manager, Carla Longo, (who was an Attorney) would immediately throw Ruth Walker under the bus when confronted by Turk Bauer. I believe that she would have stated that the matter was under investigation and that she needed to confer with outside counsel. The issue of whether Ruth was covered by the Hospital's malpractice insurance policy and/or whether she had her own malpractice insurance was never addressed and may have protected her. WTH! In addition, there were several procedural errors about the New Haven Superior Court System and the trial procedures, (scheduling of oral argument, the timing for the distribution of juror lists, etc.) which could have been verified by simply calling the Superior Court Clerk and the Jury Clerk. Lastly, the ending ..well, it was unrealistic. I will leave it at that. Forgive my nitpicking - but since I have intimate knowledge the above referenced things, I just can't help myself. Because of these issues, I had to deduct .5 from my rating, (thus giving it 4.5 v. 5 Stars).

That said, the storyline itself was phenomenal. Jodi Picoult tackled a sensitive topic with extreme grace (as she always does). The characters jump off the page. You are immediately immersed in their lives and nothing else matters. Small Great Things has left me with a heavy heart. I expect to carry it around with me for a long time to come.

Published on Goodreads and Amazon on 4.23.17.

Initial Review Posted 4.23.17 at 11:30 a.m.
Trying to find the words. Finished this Friday and am still stunned. I grew up in an affluent town that borders New Haven, CT and worked in Hartford for 3 years in my early 30's. This book opened my eyes to issues that I have never seen. I realize that I have looked at the world through rose colored glasses (and I have always considered myself a realist).
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