Small Great Things

by Jodi Picoult

If there is a book that needs to be read by every single person on this planet, THIS is the book! Jodi Picoult has managed to form an important literary digest of one of the most controversial subjects of human existence, racism. Racism is prevalent, racism is thriving, and this book will make you examine your life, your upbringing, and your relationships in a way that very few things can. 

small great things book review


Its a novel about a labor and delivery nurse named Ruth who takes pride in her job. Caring for new mothers, newborns, and helping bring life into the world one delivery at a time. On a routine check up for a newborn little boy named Davis Bauer, Ruth is road blocked by the childs father, Turk Bauer. Ruth hadn’t done anything wrong, nothing out of the ordinary, and all within standard procedure for a newborn check up. The only issue was that Turk Bauer is a White supremacist and Ruth is African American. 


Her supervisor is summoned and the parents of the newborn communicate their request to not have Ruth or anyone that looks like Ruth, handling their baby. The supervisor makes a note of this in their file and Ruth is told she is no longer to care for the Bauer baby. Despite her feelings being hurt and offended, she is angry that her employer conceded to such a request. She has been one of the top nurses at her hospital and has worked there for over 20 years. She has never been told that she couldn’t do her job as a professional because her skin was too dark. She swallows the pill of oppression, as people of color often do, because she doesn’t want to lose her job. Ruth is catapulted into a controversial trial that will rock the world she has worked her entire life to create for herself and her son Edison, who is a high school honor student in the process of applying to colleges.

She is placed in a predicament that will spiral into the biggest battle of her life, with her freedom at stake.


Kennedy is the public defender assigned to Ruth’s arraignment and although she has never had the opportunity to take on a big case like this, she requests to be assigned as Ruth representation. Kennedy is white. 


There isn’t much more I can divulge without spoiling the ending for you all, but what I can say is that this is a powerful and timely novel. Our country has been battling the unfair treatment of Black people by law enforcement for decades. This book if nothing else will have you, the reader, dissecting your role in our society, asking yourself important questions, and hopefully inspiring you to do something about it. Unfortunately there is no way to empathize with being Black in your weren’t born that way. But there is a way to empathize with being treated unfairly for reasons out of your control. These small racist encounters can be as small as being followed inside of a department store while other, non minority, customers shop freely without a sales associate breathing down their neck, to two Black men being arrested just for sitting in a Starbucks waiting for a colleague to have a meeting. Regardless of how big or small, if we sit by and do not object, we are a part of the problem. My father is Black and my mother is Puerto Rican and Italian. I have struggled growing up to find my place and find acceptance amongst my peers who often ask, “what are you?” Why can’t I just be female, or tall? Why does “what I am” have to be defined by my race? Although I embrace all of my cultures I have always identified with being Black, not only because I am Black, but because I too have dealt with the struggles of being profiled and categorized simply for being Black. Whether you are White, Black, Blue, or Yellow, you NEED to read this book. You need to really read it and insert yourself in the shoes of every perspective being told. 


All of the characters have a powerful voice to be heard: Kennedy the public defender, Turk the white supremacist, and Ruth the nurse who’s on trial, not for neglecting to do her job, but for being Black.


5/5 cups from me on this one! There has GOT to be a movie in the making and I’d bet with the right cast it will stand right up there with films like “A Time to Kill” and "Amistad".  You can grab your copy right here

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Joey Livingston