small great things

Jodi Picoult |  Fiction


I became nauseous twice while reading this novel.  While there was little physical violence per se, reading about the inner thoughts of a white supremacist quite literally made me ill.  I considered quitting the second time this occurred, and then I read some reviews.  Eleanor Brown of the Washington Post describes small great things as “frank, uncomfortably introspective” and a book that will challenge readers. With that perspective and the encouragement of my friend Linda, I continued.

This is the story of Ruth, an African-American highly experienced labor & delivery nurse, who is restricted from caring for a newborn per the request of the newborn’s parents, who are white supremacists.  But then an emergency occurs, the baby dies and Ruth is sued by the parents, charged with murder and negligent homicide.  The novel is based on a real situation that occurred in Flint, Michigan.

The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Ruth, her white attorney Kennedy, and the father of the baby, Turk.  This novel will definitely challenge you to look at your own racism, not just in terms of hate, but also in terms of privilege. It is also a good story!  Picoult writes well ... I think an author who can make me nauseous just by relaying the thoughts of one of her characters has to have superb skills.

I gave small great things three hearts, however, because a) I cannot recommend this book to everyone; you have to be ready for it, and have the stomach for it; and b) I think it is a somewhat over-written.  I think the some elements of the conclusion were manufactured out of thin air and quite unnecessary and unbelievable. I would like to hear what you think about the ending – without any spoilers!  Particularly unreal to me is what happens to the couple, Brit and Turk.

If you read this, please post your opinion!  And have a bottle of Pepto Bismol nearby.


4 responses on “small great things

  1. Charlene

    I think this is a pass for me. Jodi Picoult and I don’t have a great relationship. Most of her books make me sad or angry, so I don’t also want to feel nauseous.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Good taking care of yourself, Charlene! I get it.

  2. Mary C Crawford

    I hesitated to put it on my list for the reasons you had trouble with it, Andrea. But will give it a try. Jodi Picoult doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.

  3. Carolyn

    Just finished reading (and listening) to this book. As I listened I wondered about a white woman writing about the thoughts and feelings of a black woman. The author’s honest comments at the end helped me appreciate her efforts on this topic of privilege and racism. I would like for many to read this book. I thought it insightful and sensitive, acknowledging that we can change many assumptions (conscious or not) leading to deeper understanding accompanied with compassion.