Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Goodreads|Amazon|Author Website
Release date: October 11, 2016

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Genre: Contemporary Fiction 


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 had to take some time since finishing this book to really collect my thoughts and wrap my head around all the things I gained by reading this book. I’ve been a Picoult fan for years and have read almost every single one of her books, so I knew beforehand that I would be in for a heavy read. She always manages to write novels that make the reader really think and contemplate various situations, but she’s really outdone herself here. She tackled some extremely substantial subject matter in a empathetic manner that moved me to the point of tears. (More than once)

There are three various viewpoints here; Ruth the nurse who is told by her boss and patient that she is not allowed to do her job because of her skin color, Turk the patients father who sets this entire situation in motion, and Kennedy, the public defender who represents Ruth when she is charged on multiple counts due to her alleged neglect. Picoult seamlessly weaves all of these perspectives together and still manages to write in a distinct voice for each character. 

The growth of the characters in Small Great Things is astounding and may be Picoult’s best work in that department yet. Ruth reveals parts of herself that she has never even acknowledged herself during the course of the story. She is facing the biggest challenge of her life and is faced with an uncertain future. Her main priority is ensuring that her teenaged son, Edison is taken care of and her life is in the hands of Kennedy. But how can she put her trust in a woman who has literally no idea how it feels to walk in her shoes? Turk is the sort of character that you loathe as soon as you meet him, he’s a proud white supremacist and there isn’t really much about him that is redeeming. But by the end of the book, I at least had a better understanding of what shaped him into the hateful man that he was. Things come full circle in a way that is classic Picoult and if you’re looking for her usual twist, you won’t be disappointed. 

Racism is hard to watch, difficult to read about, and almost downright impossible to discuss in an open and honest manner. Picoult wrote a really profound authors note at the end that explained why she was compelled to write a book on the subject of racism. She said she felt like it was the right thing to do, even though she was aware that it would be highly controversial and she would inevitably experience some blowback. I applaud her for tackling such a deep and volatile issue, it cannot have been easy. I’m so glad that she did though, it is timely and relevant and it was really thought provoking. It made me think about the difference between prejudice and discrimination, about how all white people are privileged in some way based on their skin color alone, and how ignorance still runs rampant in the United States. Book clubs would seemingly never run out of topics to discuss surrounding this book, the possibilities are endless. 

I could blather on and on about all the emotions I felt while reading this, I was outraged, disgusted, enlightened, sad, happy, hopeful. It was quite an emotional read to say the least. It’s not a book to pick up if you’re looking for something light or easy, but if you want a read that is captivating, emotive, and provides some insight into race relations, this is a must read.

Overall rating: 5/5

30 thoughts on “Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

  1. Susie | Novel Visits says:

    I agree with you that Small Great Things was a brave book for Picoult to write. She obviously had given the topic of racism a lot of thought and a lot of research. I thought she handled it beautifully and know I learned a lot from reading her book. I wasn’t wild about the ending, but thought the rest was amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Devouring Books and Lattes says:

    Small Great Things sounds spectacular! I love that you wrote about taking some time to really think about the story and how you feel about all of it. I love books that make you think and discover things about yourself. I agree that this would be a great choice for a book club or any forum that could lead to further discussion about these issues. Fantastic post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Renee says:

    Excellent review of what seems to be a book with difficult subject matter! I haven’t read her books for years as I thought they started to veer into the preachy and seemed research heavy. I always thought she was a great writer though.


  4. Annie says:

    I’ve read some Picoult books but you really need to be in the mood… and I don’t think I am at the moment. SO DRAMATIC haha I read the blurb and I was already overwhelmed!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. luvtoread says:

    Great review! I liked this book and thought Picoult did an excellent job here. I really enjoyed her author’s note at the end. I thought the ending was tied up a bit too neatly, and really disliked reading Turk’s chapters. I agree that it would be a good book club choice! So much to discuss here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. computersaysyes says:

    I LOVED Small Great Things and gave it a stellar review…and I keep thinking about it. Did not like the too-neat reveal at the end, but still makes my best of 2016 list. Book club discussion resulted in a bit of talk about white supremacists coming out during the campaign and a Trump fan’s tearful claim that there was nothing hateful being advocated in the campaign. Seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. BibliomaniacEzza says:

    great review! I have had small great things in my TBR for ages now and reading your review makes me feel like its high time for me to finally start reading it 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amanda @Cover2CoverMom says:

    Yay! I’m so glad you loved it too. I agree that it would make for a perfect book club selection, and hope to get my own book club to read it so I can have people to discuss it with. I really love how she really got into white privilege and the ignorance that most white people have about racism. I cannot wait to review this one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s