Book review| small great things

I’ve read quite a number of books by Jodi Picoult. I think the first one I read and reviewed here was Nineteen Minutes. A lot of people think most of her work is overly dramatic and preachy, but for me the most important thing about a book is it’s ability to hold my attention, transport me to a temporary reality and make me wish I could go back there after the book ends and Picoult does that every single time.


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 book is particularly important because its a white woman addressing race issues in America. It will be particularly enlightening for other white people, but I think it’s certainly a riveting story. I can’t imagine writing courtroom scenes and making them come alive is easy, but Picoult does that with seeming ease. She has also created a fascinating exploration of the mind of a white supremacist, as the book is written from the perspectives of Ruth, her white lawyer Kennedy and Turk, the baby’s white supremacist’s father. At times, his POV is so disturbing; it’s quite uncomfortable to believe that people who think this way exist.

The issue of race in America may appear to be over-flogged in books and movies, but it is one we probably will keep having to discuss and actively educate people about. This book interrupted my life and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how the story ended. It is so well written and the amount of research that has obviously gone into creating it is commendable.


It just goes to show you: every baby is born beautiful. It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.

White people don’t mean half the offensive things that come out of their mouths, and so I try not to let myself get rubbed the wrong way.

Corrine is one of those people for whom life is just the space between crises.

This is what it feels like to beat someone up: like a rubber band stretched so tight it aches, and starts to shake. And then when you throw that punch, when you let go of the elastic, the snap is electric. You’re on fire and you didn’t even realize you were combustible.

There’s nothing worse than leaving a hospital without the baby you went in to have.

What no one told me about grief is how lonely it is. No matter who else is mourning, you’re in your own little cell. Even when people try to comfort you, you’re aware that now there is a barrier between you and them, made of the horrible thing that happened, that keeps you isolated.

I knew that sometimes when people spoke, it wasn’t because they had something important to say. It was because they had a powerful need for someone to listen.

“Did you know that in The Lion King, the hyenas-the bad guys- all speak either in black or Latino slang? And that the little cubs are told not to go where the hyenas live?

During clinical rotations at the hospital, teachers praised my expertise. But when the day was over, I’d walk into a convenience store to buy a Coke and the owner would follow me around to make sure I didn’t shoplift.

The loneliest creature on earth is a whale that has spent more than twenty years calling out for a mate, I read, but whose voice is so different from those of other whales that none of them ever responded.

If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that friendship is a smoke screen. The people you think are solid turn out to be mirrors and light; and then you look down and realize that there are others you took for granted, those who are your foundation.

Freedom is the fragile neck of a daffodil, after the longest of winters. It’s the sound of your voice without anyone drowning you out. It’s having the grace to say yes and more important, the right to say no.

I’ve seen that it’s getting made into a movie with Viola Davis and Julia Roberts and I’m excited for that! As much as they’re never the same, I love movie adaptations of books.

My Rating: 5 stars.

Have you read small great things? How do feel about Jodi Picoult? I’d like to know!