Book Review: Small Great Things


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.


This is my first Jodi Picoult book and I am feeling irresolute.

There are books that are annoyingly dragging and boring in the beginning and gets exciting and intensive towards the end like Three Dark Crowns.

There are books which are compelling and powerful throughout the story like The Crooked Kingdom Duology.

Then there is Small Great Things which commands your attention upon first read, gets galling and disagreeable in the middle but does enough to redeem itself and finish with a passable but unexceptional ending.

Notwithstanding the 4-5 star reviews, this came as a need-to-read-asap book because of its premise. I didn’t realize how taciturn people really are towards racial discrimination until I finished this book.

“… racism isn’t just about hate…”

“… I didn’t see myself as a racist. Now I realize I am. Not because I hate people of different races but because – intentionally or unintentionally I’ve gotten a boost from the color of my skin, just like Ruth Jefferson suffered a setback because of hers…”

“Passive racism… it’s reading your kid’s fourth-grade curriculum and seeing that only black history covered is slavery, and not questioning why…”

Living in an Asian country, we don’t usually encounter racist remarks, not even come across it on TV.

It becomes significant to read works such as this because it engenders our need to extract the biases, and act more than react on social issues that gravely affect humanity not only on the racism front, but on other issues as well – religion and gender discrimination to name a few.

I gave this book 3 stars because there were a few chapters that did not sit well with me but I’ll skip the specifics and leave them for you to think about. The book did receive a lot of good remarks so it’s very relative. Jodi Picoult has a specific market and I don’t think I am in the population.


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