Friday, October 14, 2016

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - Book Review

" I realize that we both desperately want to be people we really aren't" - Small Great Things

I just finished reading "Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult - and I have feelings. To start, I was a little anxious about reading and reviewing this book. Generally, I tend to steer clear of hot button issues in life- and this book, for better or worse, is deeply in the hot button zone. I'm sure there are *many* reasons why I avoid discussing divisive topics, but in part I believe it is because I tend to embrace the grey- so standing firmly on one side of an issue or another doesn't feel like I'm being true to myself. I struggle to "imagine people { and situations } complexly", in the words of John Green. And "Small Great Things" is definitely a great exercise in that!

warning will robinson

Spoilers ahead- It would be difficult and not super productive for me to discuss this book and not reveal any of the details of the book. However, I am not giving anything away isn't discussed in the synopsis you'd find on Goodreads. I think, you can still fully enjoy the book and enjoy this review! However, if you were hoping to read this book with zero knowledge of some major plot points, watch yourself ; )

Super simple plot summary of "Small Great Things" - Ruth Jefferson, a nurse, is removed from a patient's care because the parents, Turk and Brittany, are white supremacists who do not want Ruth, a black woman, touching their child, Davis. When Davis and Ruth are left alone unexpectedly, Ruth delays caring for Davis during a medical emergency because she fears for her job. Turk and Brittany press charges, and Ruth is arrested and tried for the death of Davis. Kennedy, Ruth's lawyer, and Ruth have a complicated relationship as they attempt to navigate the legal system and the issues that this case includes. 

Phew - it's a lot. But then, Jodi Picoult's books generally are. Which is one of the reasons why people generally love her books so much. She chooses a topic that people are passionate about and explores, researches, and reveals those passions on another level that only literature can explore. 

Frequently throughout the book, though, when I wondered why Jodi Picoult chose for a character to act a certain way or make a certain choice I had to remind myself of a few things - I'll never be put into the situation Ruth was put into - and neither will the author. 

I really struggled while reading this book with a major plot point - Ruth not giving excellent medical care to Davis. Ruth's character throughout the book is one of morals and strength - which makes her an excellent mother and nurse. So I really struggled with believing that she would choose her job over caring for Davis in that emergency. Ruth grabs Davis immediately when she notices something is wrong with the baby, and then puts him back once she thinks of her job - and I just wanted to shake her. Each time that decision was discussed I was conflicted...which was a lot of the book. I mean, what would someone think is going to happen to their job as a nurse if they let a child die right in front of them?!  I was left with the impression that if another nurse had not entered the room when Davis was dying, that Ruth would have done nothing. And while her initial inaction might not have mattered as far as Davis living or dying, it did matter when I thought of Ruth's character. 

Several of the chapters in this book were from Turk's perspective and I really struggled with those as well. Turk's POV is just absurd and difficult to follow- which logically makes sense since his views are absurd and difficult to follow. But because Turk and Brittany's side of this story is just so obviously reprehensible, it really wasn't interesting to read. It felt contrived and was more than a little uncomfortable. Those sections of the book also felt overly politicized, in that it wasn't subtle - Jodi was calling society out for things that are not common just to white supremacists. Ultimately, I felt like those sections really did the book a disservice.

What would be more interesting, and was more interesting to read were the seemingly small interactions in life that the author explored. I really enjoyed reading scenes in the book that developed the key relationships between Ruth and Kennedy, Ruth and her son, and Kennedy and her daughter. I also found the hospitals interactions with the lawsuit very interesting. Because ultimately, the decision to remove Ruth from the care of Davis was illegal. A provider's job can not be influenced by a racially motivated decision.

Because of the issues discussed above, I only gave this book three stars. If you love Jodi Picoult books, I do think you'll enjoy this one - but if the problems I list resonate with you, it definitely won't be your favorite.

Have you read "Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult? Let me know what you thought of the book below. Thinking about reading it? Click here to find a copy at your local library or click below to view the book on Amazon.

Many thanks to Ballentine Books for providing me an advanced copy of this book.

While the book was free, as a girl who is all about the library ( where books are always “free”) - know that all opinions are mine. 


  1. Kudos to you for giving this book a try! I read that synopsis and just wasn't sure if it was going to go in a direction that would make me feel comfortable reading. I do enjoy books that explore family relationships, so maybe someday I will give this one a read. <3


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