Small Great Things : Ruth Jefferson

  • by Jodi Picoult
  • Narrated by Audra McDonald, Cassandra Campbell, Ari Fliakos
  • Series: Ruth Jefferson
  • 16 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This stunning new novel is Jodi Picoult at her finest - complete with unflinching insights, richly layered characters, and a pause-resisting plot with a gripping moral dilemma at its heart.
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than 20 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Marvelous narration of an excellent novel

The title, Small Great Things, is from a quote of Dr. Martin Luther King. This only my sixth Jodi Picoult novel and it is by far the best. The story is riveting and the focus on racism is certainly appropriate in today's climate. The setting is New Haven CT. I classify the genre as legal thriller rather than contemporary fiction. The story deserves 5 stars rather than 4, but I have down rated it because of specific comments in the novel that I believe are untrue and unfair political cheap shots. The most important is a statement that Tea Party members are racist like skinheads and neo-Nazis. That statement is simply untrue; hate them or love them Tea Party members are about government financial responsibility rather than race. That and some other cheap shots demonstrates the author is ignorant of some of the matters on which she comments.

This novel deals with the overt and open racism of the antagonist couple as well as the more subtle unintended racial insensitivity of protagonist Ruth Jefferson's co-workers and even her lawyer. The point is that in the US those of us born Caucasian often do not show adequate sensitivity toward those of color. I agree we need to be more sensitive. In his August 1963 speech on Washington DC mall Dr. King looked forward to the day that all people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. That is still the goal. We have made great progress as a nation, but we are not yet there.

Ruth Jefferson, a very caring long time nurse who lost her soldier husband to war and is raising a 17 year old star pupil son, makes a wonderful protagonist. She is the type of honest and ethical person who evokes strong empathy. I doubt that in our legal system she would have been charged with murder or any crime. As such this novel is not realistic, but reading fiction requires a significant level of suspension of disbelief. I look forward to the second novel in the Ruth Jefferson series.

I highly recommend Small Great Things.
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- Wayne "I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!"


Jodi has a way of presenting life's complexities and pain in a way that the impact continues long after the last page is turned. As a highly educated African American woman who attended dominant culture (white) schools all of my life, this book spoke to me. Racism is so insidious that we now call it unconscious bias. I use this term and understand it intellectually, however, my soul feels this bias as racism. In spite of chronic soul injury I am consciously aware of the fact that whatever I do or say in response to this chronic trauma I must never forget my responsibility to those generations who follow me. My doctoral professor asked me why I choose to carry that burden. My response, because if I don't who will. At 65 years of age looking at the current political climate, the maltreatment and disrespect shown towards President Obama and his grace and dignity during the past 8 years, my answer remains the same. "When they go low, you go high". (Mrs. Obama). Thank you Jodi for having the courage to write this book.
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- Dr. T

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-11-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio