Book Review: “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult

The Lowdown:

Small Great Things” is told with frank honesty, thus is quite a heavy, challenging read. In true Jodi Picoult style, the novel deals with a compelling moral dilemma and intractable social justice issues. Set in contemporary America, the novel tackles racism, inequality and prejudice. Ruth, an innocent African-American labour and delivery nurse, finds herself faced with the consequences of a medical incident involving the death of an infant child belonging to white supremacists. Offering very different angles of events, and insights into differing life circumstances that have each led the characters to be who they are, the story is told from three different points of view – the African-American nurse, Ruth; her Caucasian lawyer, Kennedy; and the late infant’s white supremacist father, Turk. Throughout Ruth’s trial, she and Kennedy work on gaining each other’s trust –  great introspection is achieved through each of their perspectives in the novel; both Ruth and Kennedy have to question their beliefs and what they have been taught about others and themselves. Through Turk’s perspective, Picoult explores the radical ideas behind white supremacy, and beliefs behind their immoral social behaviours. Overall, the novel is quite thought-provoking, brutal at times, and an important narrative.

Small Great Things” is set to be turned into a film with some big names on board, including Viola Davis and Julia Roberts.

Issues explored:

  • Racism
  • Equality vs Equity
  • Social injustice
  • Prejudice

 Significant quotes:

  • “Racism takes many forms and is reinforced in the structures of our society.”
  • “Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.”
  • “You say you don’t see color…but that’s all you see. You’re so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren’t prejudiced, you can’t even understand that when you say race doesn’t matter all I hear is you dismissing what I’ve felt, what I’ve lived, what it’s like to be put down because of the color of my skin.” 
  • “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Life Lessons:

  • Racist behaviour is not limited to acts of overt aggression but also includes things like suspicion, making assumptions, and constant monitoring.
  • Racism is more than discrimination, it is about who has institutional power. It creates disadvantages for ethnic and religious minorities, in turn making success more difficult to achieve, whilst simultaneously providing opportunities for ethnic majorities.
  • To challenge implicit racism.
  • Justice won’t be served unless those who are unaffected are just as outraged as those who are affected.

 Rating: 4.5/5

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult

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    Liked by 1 person

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