Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult is a fiction novel about a Black nurse, Ruth, who works in the labor and delivery ward at a local small hospital in Connecticut. She ends up working two shifts one day to cover for someone; she is assigned to a white couple who just had a baby boy, Davis. While doing the baby’s exam, Ruth notices the parents are acting strange around her. After she finishes the exam and tries to help the mother to get the baby to feed, the husband steps up and asks to see her supervisor.
Ruth’s supervisor, Marie, speaks with the family and finds out they do not wish to have any African-American personnel treating or handling their child. Marie makes a note in the file and reassigns Ruth to a different patient. It is clear Ruth feels uncomfortable or put off by the parents’ request; she works at New Haven Mercy Hospital (or something close to that) – it is small and understaffed. During her shift, Ruth is left to watch Davis after having a routine circumcision while the nurse assigned to him attends to her other patient heading to the OR for a C-section. While Ruth is watching Davis, his condition deteriorates and Ruth is faced with the decision to help and risk getting in trouble for not following the parents’ wishes or not do anything at all and risk losing her job for not doing her job.
The book follows the story through the eyes of Ruth, Turk (Davis’ father) and Kennedy (Ruth’s public defender). It took me a while to get into the book, but I think that is because I wasn’t in the mood to read a contemporary fiction novel (I was in the mood for historical fiction). After continuing to read the book I found myself more and more interested. The book has a little bit of everything – there are some funny parts, some sad parts, and some awkward moments too. Kennedy ended up being my favorite character in the story. I like her personality, her relationship with her husband, Micah, and how close they are. It is evident that they enjoy each other’s company and are friends. I like Kennedy’s determination to try the case and represent Ruth – despite her selfish reasons, at first, for doing it. I also liked reading how Kennedy’s and Ruth’s relationship changes from simply a professional client-lawyer to a casual friendship in which they learn about each other. It was the relationship between Ruth and Kennedy that interested me about this book more than anything. I like the book and because of the topic(s) it covers it is easier to say who I would not recommend this book for – anyone who is not interested in reading a modern-day story dealing with racial discrimination, the U.S. criminal justice system, poverty, white supremacy, housing problems, violence, drug use, education, etc.
I borrowed the book from my local library – all of the small print editions were checked out of the library and affiliate libraries, so I requested the large print edition since it was available. I do recommend checking for the availability of a large print version if the library has one; chances are, the book will be available to check out or have less holds than a small print edition. If you read the book and fall in love with it, you can purchase it on Amazon for $18.27 (hardcover) or from Barnes & Noble for $18.89 (hardcover).
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