Throwback Thursday: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


This weekly feature is hosted by Renee, (Its Book Talk). Throwback Thursday offers a way to share some of our old favorites as well  as sharing books that we are finally getting around to reading that were published over a year ago.


small great thingsSmall Great Things 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.


Ruth Jefferson works at the labor ward at Mercy-West Haven. She has been a labor nurse for over twenty years. Right from the first page, readers get to see Ruth working with new mothers. It is obvious how great she is at her job. She not only has passion for her job but also love for the newborns. Needless to say, it was devastating when Ruth was reassigned from a case only to find out that this decision was based on the color of her skin.

This sets the tone for the book whose main theme is race. We get to hear the story from Ruth, an African American woman. She has done everything right in her life, went to Yale Nursing School, lives at a good neighborhood and is raising a bright, intelligent young man. However, at the background of Ruth’s success story is the issue of her race. Through her voice, we learn about her struggles. One particular scene that stood out to me involved her shopping at a store where she was followed around and her bags were inspected as other shoppers(white) went about their business without the scrutiny. There are also scenes that involve 3:00am arrests and phrases such as, ‘big, black, angry man’ used to describe a scared teen. This is the kind of book that makes you angry, uncomfortable. It confronts you with reality and forces you to open your eyes to the injustices faced by different ethnic groups.

On the other hand, there is Turk who is a white supremacist who hates blacks, asians and gays. The depths of his hate run deep. He spends most of his life beating up gays. Turk is married to Brit who shares in his believe. Part of me wanted to reject the portrayal of Turk and Brit. I mean, how could two people be so hateful? Who the hell thinks like they did? However, I recalled the news stories that have recently made headlines about hate groups. That reminded me that sadly, there are people like Turk in this world. The hate that he had was not an exaggeration.

I like the fact that the author introduced a third character in this story. Kennedy is Ruth’s lawyer and she is white. She doesn’t consider herself racist and in her words, she doesn’t see race. I enjoyed seeing how her character changed throughout the story when she had to consider other perspectives. There are many other outstanding characters in the books such as Adisa and Edison, Ruth’s mum, Christina, Micah. It is a long book so the author really took the time to develop each character hence enriching the story

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is a heavy book. Nonetheless, Jodi does a brilliant job of portraying these themes in a thought-provoking, sensitive manner. Her narration style doesn’t make it sound preachy despite the numerous lessons. Instead, this almost reads like a legal thriller since a lot of it revolves around the legal issues that arose from the racial discrimination. There was so much tension. I didn’t know what would happen at the end. I was nervous for Ruth especially once I got to know more about the evil people who she was dealing with.

At the end of the story, the lessons remain. I found myself thinking about racism and all the people that if affects. Jodi’s book made me think about race issues in the West and also ethnic hatred right here at home. At the end of the day, hate is hate whether based on race, religion, sexual orientation or tribe. This book is thought-provoking and it challenges you to see things from other people’s perspectives.

It is an important book that everyone should read. Highly recommended.