Audio Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Title: Small Great Things
Author: @jodipicoult
Reviewer: Grace
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 470 pages
Rating: 5 Stars


Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

Grace Review

Story: 5 stars
PrejudiceThese 4 things are the heart of this story, particularly in how the last two factors impact the first two for one young individual.This story is so complex in that it is clear that neither of the 3 main characters are perfect – with each of their side of the events told in 1st person POV.
***One is an African American nurse, Ruth, whose job and livelihood is in jeopardy after a major incident takes place at work.
***One is the white public defender, Kennedy, whose job it is to defend Ruth in court.
***One is a white supremacist, Turk, whose hate for people like Ruth has consequences no one would see coming.Depending on your moral beliefs, you may dislike one character more than the other.  I certainly had a hatred toward one character (take a guess which one), while still seeing fault with the other characters at times due to their actions.

I felt like this book broke down into three parts.
1st – the incident and immediate aftermath.
2nd – an exploration of racism and how it impacted each narrator, past and present.
3rd – the trial.

I was surprised that the answers of what went wrong where not clear cut.  There are so many factors at play than the care/treatment of a newborn.  And those factors shape the story.

I could tell you my opinion on whether Ruth did something wrong or not.  However, I don’t think that would be fair.  I think, like the jury, you need to hear the facts on your own and then form your opinion.

The twist near the end, that truly changes EVERYTHING, was a HUGE shock.  When Kennedy found the information, part of my brain was nagging that something big was there.  However, since I’m not a medical professional, I didn’t put it all together.  But WOW!  That was a game changer for sure.  As for the verdict, I was surprised, but the seeds of that ending were planted throughout the story, so it wasn’t inconceivable.

Personally, I felt like I picked the best and worst time to read this book.  The best because it is so relevant given the aftermath of the US election.  And worst for the very same reasons.  While I loved the story and how it is written, I felt that I could only handle the story is small doses.  It’s all very sad – the loss of a baby, everything Ruth goes thru, the hate.  It’s a hard pill to swallow because it is so real.

What this book does so well is it explores all of the facets of racism.  How it is born.  How someone of color deals with it on a daily basis.  How a person can have prejudices while not being considered overtly racist.  I didn’t feel like the book was preachy.  You can take parts of the story and learn from them, or ignore them.  Your choice.  I personally know that it has given me a lot to think about and given our toxic climate right now, how we treat each other on a daily basis is even more important.

Performance: 5++ stars
From the very first word, I knew this audio would be amazing.  It should be the gold standard for audio performances, in my opinion.  Not only does each narrator capture the raw emotion of their character, they are perfectly cast.  I’m not sure if the author held auditions for these narrators, but it certainly comes across that way.  Sometimes you hear a narrator and think, that voice doesn’t fit for the character.  That isn’t the case here.  Each narrator’s voice is EXACTLY what I would have expected.  Together, these narrators truly put together the perfect audio experience.

Overall: 5 stars
This is a book not everyone will read, but everyone SHOULD read.  It handles a very sensitive and relevant subject with a level of thoroughness.  The author did all of this without coming across like a lecture on political correctness, and it’s hard not to be in awe of that talent, after finishing.  It was even more interesting that this author acknowledges her own skin color and how that played a factor in the message she delivered.   In my opinion, she did a great job researching other perspectives to present the most authentic story.

Although this story is fiction, it is a story that could happen any day, and likely does happen every day, to one extent.  What makes this story special is how Ruth fought back, and how the other characters in the story changed by her actions.

– Grace

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