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’ve read a few Jodi Picoult books but none have ever struck me the way this one did. This is probably my favourite Picoult novel that I have read. It had very memorable characters and a great plot relevant to today, one that was thought provoking and would be great for discussions in book clubs. The first little bit did feel a little weighed down by a lot of medical information but not in a way that took me out of the story. It made me want to know more.
I loved how the three different points of view: Ruth, the nurse; Kennedy, the public defender; and Turk, the father of the baby, all came together for one story. They all had very distinct voices and were developed into full characters. We get to see Ruth fighting not to be made the scapegoat and questioning how it will all affect her son. We get to see Kennedy learning things about herself she never had thought about. We get to see how Turk got involved in “the movement” and about his upbringing. None of them are made to be one-dimensional characters.
The book wasn’t an easy read and I am so thankful for that. It hits hard, it hits often, and it leaves a mark. And it should. It’s a story meant to evoke all kinds of strong emotions. It’s a story meant to start discussions. It’s meant to feel all too real, all too possible in today’s world. And it does all that. It was a powerful book to read and it’s one I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.