Small Great Things

Small Great Things

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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"A young woman and her husband, admitted to hospital to have a baby, request that their nurse be reassigned--they are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is black, to touch their baby. The hospital complies, but the baby later goes into cardiac distress when Ruth is on duty. She hesitates before rushing in to perform CPR. When her indecision ends in tragedy, Ruth finds herself on trial, represented by a white public defender who warns against bringing race into the courtroom. As the two come to develop a truer understanding of each other's lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they each hold most dear."--
Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780345813381
9780345544957
Characteristics: 470 pages ;,25 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

A young woman and her husband, admitted to hospital to have a baby, request that their nurse be reassigned--they are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is black, to touch their baby. The hospital complies, but the baby later goes into cardiac distress when Ruth is on duty. She hesitates ... Read More »

"A black neonatal nurse is charged with causing the death of a white supremacist’s newborn baby. The story is told from the points of view of the nurse, her attorney, and the baby’s heartbroken father. As always, Picoult’s attention to legal, organizational, and medical details help the tale... Read More »


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CatherineG_1 Aug 01, 2017

Picoult's story of an African American nurse who has to make a life or death decision concerning a white baby whose parents are White Supremacists is thought provoking.
As ehbooklover said, no review could do this book justice. A good book has you thinking about the content long after you read the story. Picoult has woven a story that does just that.
There is so much rich content for discussion that would be ideal for book clubs.

b
blue_heron_59
Jul 24, 2017

In Picoult’s latest novel, she explores the difficult topic of racism. It’s not often that I come across a book about racism written by someone white, but I thought that in this instance, it made the message of the book much stronger, especially to white readers who have never experienced racism firsthand but still feel passionate about racial equality. This books helped give me a new perspective on racism and the role that white people can play in the fight against it. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone and everyone.

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MelissaYAReader
Jul 12, 2017

In Picoult's latest novel she tackles the issue of race. Ruth, a woman who has spent her life dedicated to being a labor and delivery nurse, is shocked when she is told by her supervisor at the hospital she works for that she is not to attend to the baby of a couple who are white supremacists. While alone in the nursery the baby's heart stops and Ruth jumps into action, but won't admit that she did so to her supervisors when they arrive. Those actions lead to a legal battle which is about more than the death of one child, it is about trying racism and defeating it in our legal system.

This book is full of political issues, and really makes the reader think about how different things are for Ruth and how differently she is treated because of her skin color. Picoult has never shied away from sensitive topics, and this is no exception. She tackles today's issues without flinching from the difficult parts.

m
Mary Jean Rodney
Jun 17, 2017

Excellent story about overt and hidden racism. You may find it uncomfortable and question yourself which are some of the purposes of this book. Great story!

g
ggallardousa
May 04, 2017

Good attempt at writing about racism, but author's cookie cutter writing style is still lacking.

An African_American labor nurse is asked to keep an eye on the infant of a white supremacist from whose care she had earlier been removed. I won't give away plot points here, but the happy ending after the grueling trial felt a little too unlikely and the final plot twist not at all credible.

Kirkus wrote a snarky review of this book but I have recommended it to patrons. It is worth reading to meet Ruth Jefferson and to see how she has worked around racism her whole life, and to gain a glimpse of the world of white supremacists (don't know where Piccoult learned about this!).

The book is based on a real case in which an African American nurse sued her hospital in Flint, MI conceded to a man's request that no black nurses care for his infant (spoiler alert: the hospital lost the suit). Soon to be a major motion picture with Viola Davis.

c
cknightkc
Apr 26, 2017

In SMALL GREAT THINGS author Jodi Picoult tackles the subject of racism. This is an absorbing page-turner with articulate dialogue and three-dimensional, relatable characters. The title is inspired by a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” Despite its brilliance, the book is not without flaws, namely a tone that at times comes off as earnest and preachy and a plot twist that’s a bit too pat and melodramatic. However, if the story causes readers to examine their own preconceptions, Picoult has achieved her goal, and I think most would agree that’s a great thing.

c
cherymcginness
Apr 24, 2017

Black delivery nurse told not to touch white baby. Very good.

n
NanCcan
Apr 22, 2017

A must-read! Entertaining and educational - especially for those of us who don’t believe we need to be educated on this subject. As soon as I finished it, I felt a responsibility to recommend it - even on Facebook. I hope it becomes a selection for One Read.
It was difficult to endure reading some of the white supremacist’s sincere beliefs, but Jodi Picoult effectively shows us where he is coming from, so that we can experience the events from his point of view.
Since this book is written by a white woman, I looked for comments from people of color to see whether they felt she got it right, because by the time I had finished reading Ruth’s story, I really wanted to know. (I wish reviewers would tell us whether they are white or not; I am white.)
The third perspective in this story involves the gradual eye-opening of a white woman who is certain she is not racist. This effectively causes us to reflect on our own ignorance of our privileges.
(Picoult experiences her own changes in perspective as she is writing this - don’t skip her thoughts in the acknowledgements after the story, [where she also apologizes for writing a black woman’s story]; it is well worth reading.)

r
rankin9988
Apr 21, 2017

Quite the thought provoking read. Wish I could make everyone read it.

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Quotes

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c
cknightkc
Apr 26, 2017

“The best lies are the ones that are wrapped around a core of truth.” - p. 113

c
cknightkc
Apr 26, 2017

“The only time people who look like us are making history, it’s a footnote.” - p. 119

c
cknightkc
Apr 26, 2017

“Freedom is the fragile neck of a daffodil, after the longest of winters.” - p. 449

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“Admitting that racism has played a part in our success means admitting that the American dream isn’t quite so accessible to all.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“It’s the difference between dancing along the eggshell crust of acquaintance and diving into the messy center of a relationship. It’s not always perfect; it’s not always pleasant—but because it is rooted in respect, it is unshakable.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“You say you don’t see color…but that’s all you see. You’re so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren’t prejudiced, you can’t even understand that when you say race doesn’t matter all I hear is you dismissing what I’ve felt, what I’ve lived, what it’s like to be put down because of the color of my skin.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

“In a lot of ways, having a teenager isn't all that different from having a newborn. You learn to read the reactions, because they're incapable of saying exactly what it is that's causing pain.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 13, 2017

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

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