From the book jacket:
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.
I don’t believe that I have been so moved in so many different ways by a book until I read Small Great Things. I laughed, cried, and was enraged. I questioned my own believes. I think Small Great Things did everything it was supposed to do, and that was to help in opening your eyes, if only a mere millimetre more, to show how regardless of how non-racist we may make ourselves out to be, can we really comment on it?
Small Great Things made me reflect upon my own experiences with racism and how it’s affected me and how I reflect it. Do I overcompensate to try “show off” my acceptance? Does the fact that I’m bi-racial make it OK for me to joke about race? (Specifically my own.) Is race an issue in the city I live in? The province? The country? There’s a thousand different answers and depending on your own beliefs, there’s no wrong one.
I know many other readers were skeptical of Picoult tackling this subject because she is, by the book’s very own standard, privileged, but I believe it takes a certain amount of guts to delve this deep into racism, especially considering today’s political issues. She acknowledged the fact that she felt out of place writing a book about race, but I think she gave it her all and did the best she could.
I know no one, no matter what your race, can relate to or know what it’s like to be someone else – White, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc., but we can at least open our eyes and try to understand.
I feel like I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, so back to the book itself. Safe to say – I loved Small Great Things and its characters, yes, even Turk. While his beliefs are obviously filled with hate it was heart-wrenching reading about what he went through with his son. I can appreciate Ruth’s apprehension working with Kennedy and ultimately deciding to go with her gut. I can understand Edison’s turn in personality and attitude as he tries to figure out who he is.
Small Great Things is a timely read and I highly recommend it. I give it 5 stars out of 5.
2 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Small Great Things”
I really enjoyed this book as well. I appreciate how much research Picoult puts into her stories to ensure she is sharing perspectives of people different from her accurately. I did think it was a bit on the long side, but other than that I really liked it.
I loved the message of this book and I hope it continues to reach many! It caused me to reflect deeply on my association with race and my privileges as well.