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January 17, 2019

Small Great Things



Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Fiction
2016 Ballantine Books
Finished on December 19, 2018
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult is a born storyteller who "writes with a fine touch, a sharp eye for detail, and a firm grasp of the delicacy and complexity of human relationships" (The Boston Globe). Small Great Things is Picoult at her finest--complete with unflinching insights, richly layered characters, and a page-turning plot with a gripping moral dilemma at its heart.

Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse, 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, but the next day the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone on the ward. 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 Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy's counsel, Ruth tries to keep her life as normal as possible--especially for her teenaged son. And as the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy come to see that what they've been taught their whole lives about others--and themselves--might be wrong.

I've read over a dozen books by Jodi Picoult and this may very well be my favorite. As always, Jodi is a marvelous storyteller and this timely novel is one I simply couldn't put down. In classic Picoult style, with her alternating points-of-view and courtroom drama, Small Great Things is a compelling read with believable dialogue and authentic characters. However, the white supremicist storyline was so disturbing that I almost quit after reading the first few chapters. I'm glad I stuck with it since it turned out to be such a thought-provoking and important book, one that I think would be an excellent book club choice. Reading Small Great Things was an uncomfortable experience; it made me angry, but it also made me think more deeply about racial awareness, intolerance and social injustice. This would be a great book to read and discuss in conjunction with Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson) and The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas).

10 comments:

  1. I liked this book a lot but not as much as you did. I felt like it was a little repetitive and too long.

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    1. Kathy, I was so engrossed in this book, I never once felt it was too long. Maybe a little repetitive, though. Now I'm eager to read her new release.

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  2. I read this one last year and attended a book group that discussed it. Quite the discussion it was. I also queried by daughter about what she would do in the situation presented as a charge nurse in a L&D unit and asked her if she had ever had anything like that happen while she was on shift. She told me no, but that there had been times that parents had asked for a different nurse or had concerns. That's not really surprising. Anyway, I told her she might find that part of the story interesting from her professional perspective if she chose to read it. Yes, this was certainly thought-provoking indeed. Really, all of Picoult's books give you something to think about.

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    1. Kay, I'm tempted to recommend it to my book group today. I have so many other titles, though, and I'm not sure I'm ready to read it again so soon. I'll bet your daughter would enjoy it, especially with her background. Yep, Picoult writes the most thought-provoking novels, doesn't she? I would like to reread a bunch of them someday.

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  3. I read this twice - when it was released and later for my book group. I liked this one a lot.

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    1. Diane, so maybe I should recommend it to my book group. I just told Kay I wasn't sure I was ready to read it again this year, but maybe I should for a group discussion. Or, maybe I can listen to the audio for the second reading. Hmmmm...

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  4. We read this for my book group last year. You liked it better than I did (Picoult beats you over the head with her points too much for me to love her) but it was compelling. Turk's chapters were so hard to read, but so good. Everyone in the group liked it and found a lot to discuss.

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    1. Stacy, I agree that Picoult can push hard to make her point, very much like Barbara Kingsolver tends to do, but I still find her novels very thought-provoking. Ah, yes. Turk is such an unlikeable character, I cringed every time I had to read his (and his wife's) dialogue. I'm jealous that your group chose this book to discuss.

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  5. Picoult is not my favorite but this is one book I would love to read. When I worked in an nursing home, I remember having a resident who didn't want any African American nurses tending to him. I couldn't believe it. Our Director of Nursing was able to resolve the situation but what was surprising to me was when she told me it wasn't the first time having to deal with that. Anyway, so glad to hear you liked this one!

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    1. Iliana, it is such a powerful book! As I wrote up my year-end stats this afternoon, I was tempted to switch the rating for it to a perfect 5, but I try to keep what my first reaction is as soon as I finish reading, so I left it with a 4.5/5. I'll bet this book would really resonate with you. I can't imagine working somewhere and seeing such blatant prejudice. Actually, I guess I can after all I've seen in the news these past couple of years...

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