Ballantine Books, 2016
Audience: Adults, Older Teens
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.
What a timely and powerful book. Picoult was spot-on with her description of race in modern America. I was devastated for Ruth and loved how much Kennedy learned from her client. My favorite part of the book was when Ruth took Kennedy shopping, and Kennedy realized that Ruth was showing her what it was like to be black. Kennedy wasn’t even aware of her white privilege. There is a bit of a twist at the end that explains more about Britney and her dad, and I had mixed feelings about it. Small Great Things will definitely make people uncomfortable and provoke thoughtful discussion. Not all people may feel positively about the angle that Picoult chose to take, but it definitely will get people talking.