Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Small Great Things” as Want to Read:
Small Great Things
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Small Great Things

(Ruth Jefferson #1)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  322,540 ratings  ·  29,080 reviews
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 co ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Ballantine Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Small Great Things, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Talisa Rafferty I don't know if I am bothered or pleased that some are finding this difficult to read. I hope that people read this and understand that this is what r…moreI don't know if I am bothered or pleased that some are finding this difficult to read. I hope that people read this and understand that this is what real life is like. I am shocked that Jodi Picoult was bold and bright enough to take this head on.
Yes, the ending was a typical ending for one of her books, but I'll take it.
My son is only 2 and I worry so much about what his life will be like when he is a Black man in America. I worry about what will happen when he is no longer cute, and becomes scary. I worry about the day that shift happens and if I will be able to protect him.
I worry about my daughter fitting in and having the same issues that I did growing up and not feeling welcome on either side. I feel like the author really had a great take on this and it really goes to show the amount of research she puts into everything that she writes. (less)
Polly Robinson As a white person, I know this book made me ashamed and uncomfortable. However, I think that was exactly the point. I couldn't put it down, and I felt…moreAs a white person, I know this book made me ashamed and uncomfortable. However, I think that was exactly the point. I couldn't put it down, and I felt JP did a great job researching and creating her characters. At first, I though it was ridiculous that the white supremacist changed so easily and that he did not get punishment for his past, but JP did research two of his kind who seemed to go that same path. Therefore, I realized it was more realistic than I originally thought. The book made me angry and ashamed of how I was raised to be racist and I thought back to stupid things I've said (or have not said) and how many times I've benefitted from structural racism. However, it also gave me some hope that we can all continue to become better people. So, maybe it was Racism 101, but maybe its what some of us need to review in order to continue to become better people and do more?(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  322,540 ratings  ·  29,080 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Small Great Things
Emily May
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, arc, contemporary
“The State just sees a dead baby. They’re targeting you because they think you failed as a nurse.”
“You’re wrong.” I shake my head in the darkness, and I say the words I’ve swallowed down my whole life. “They’re targeting me because I’m Black."

3 1/2 stars. I have some issues with the ending, but otherwise Small Great Things is such a pageturner. It's the kind of book you can easily stay up until 2am to finish (even without the teething infant to help you along). True, it's Racism 101 for whi
I have tried to write this review several times. I guess I have a lot of thoughts about this novel.

My first thought is that Jodi Picoult did not write this for me. I don't know what the demographic is for Ms. Picoult's novels but being a book person for a long time and having been to a couple of her book readings, I think I can make a pretty accurate guess at the demographic that buys her novels. So this is a novel that was written for white women and it doesn't stray far from Ms. Picoult's othe
Nov 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

I could probably write a twelve page review on everything I want to talk about from this book, everything I learned from this book. However, my reviews are long as it is so I will try my best to keep it short (well...shorter than twelve pages).

I have read every book by Jodi Picoult and they all make me think. As I've said before I always learn something too. But I feel like this book is the one that hit me hardest. I learned
4.5 stars

This is an incredibly heavy read—one that’s told with brutal honesty and a lot of heart.

My initial reaction after I read the final page of the story—why would she choose to end things on that note? After all of the hate and uncomfortable feelings throughout this story, how could things ever possibly be wrapped up in such a way? Never. No way. I wasn’t buying it. Then, I read the earnest note from the author following the story and cried my eyes out. I felt like Jodi Picoult had crawled
Will Byrnes
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
…every baby is born beautiful.
It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.
A drop of water is a tiny thing. Only a twentieth of a gram. It takes almost six hundred drops to make an ounce, and a hundred twenty eight ounces to make a gallon. That gallon is eight pounds of weight. You can feel the weight of water when you stand on the beach and try to hold your place as waves push you back. It takes only six inches of moving water to take control of your car. If you could stand underneath
Elyse  Walters
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
THIS REVIEW IS SAFE TO READ ......NO SPOILERS. There is nothing in this review which isn't already suggested in the blurb.
I begin with an excerpt:

"Suddenly Roarke Matthews is standing in front of me. His suit is ironed
with knife-edge pleats, his shoes are buffed to a high gloss. He looks like a soap
opera star, except his nose is a off-kilter, like he broke it playing football in high school.
He holds out a hand to greet me. "Mr. Bauer, he says, why don't you come with me?"
"He leads me into a
Max G.
Oct 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
I actually find this book a bit offensive. I get what Jodi Picoult is trying to do here but this story is rife with offensive stereotypes - angry Black sister, long-serving servant mama, flamboyant pastor, sassy transgender prostitute. All the same tired tropes I could find literally anywhere else.

But even worse is the thread of respectability in Ruth's story. She's the classic palatable Black person; light skinned, educated, inoffensive, widow of a veteran, doesn't colour all white people with
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Oh dear, sigh sigh. I’m sad I didn't like this book more--I so wanted to. Lots of friends love Picoult, so I feel sort of like an alien, one standing at alert, with her handy but annoying Complaint Board right here front and center.

The story line drew me right in. A black labor and delivery nurse is accused by a white supremacist of murdering his newborn, and a very sympathetic and determined lawyer defends her. All three—Ruth the nurse, Turk the supremacist, and Kennedy the lawyer have their ow
Angela M
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful book, bold in some ways , as we have a white author bringing to us a story depicting what racism looks like and trying to tell those of us who are not black, what it feels like . But anyone who has read any of Jodi Picoult's books knows that she doesn't shy away from difficult to discuss topics. I don't think very often about white supremacists . Maybe because there hasn't been much about them in the news on a regular basis (until recently) or maybe because it's so uncomfortab ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jodi Picoult has been a best selling author for over twenty years. Twenty years ago she wanted to discuss a hot button issue but did not feel like she had the platform to do so. About a year ago, Picoult read where a black female nurse in Flint, Michigan had been dismissed by a white supremacist patient over skin color. Feeling that the time was right to discuss race, Picoult used this court case as a basis for Small Great Things, her current best selling novel.

Ruth Jefferson has been a labor a
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
12.7.19 updated review: Re-read with Kaceey - November 2019.
Re-reading this novel with Kaceey, was an eye-opening experience. There is so much to learn from this story - which once again, made me look at my own behavior. What I cherished was sharing this with someone else and talking it through with them, having those incredibly hard conversations. My thoughts on Jodi Picoult’s power house novel are the same. It is Powerful, thought-provoking and heartbreaking and it shook me to my core. Thank y
Aug 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
-This Review is Based on an Advanced Reading Copy--

A woman with frizzy hair stands in front of a giant wheel. On this wheel are many many social issues. She glances at the wheel and smiles and then begins to spin it, waiting for her inspiration. The wheel spins around and around and finally lands on “Amish.” The woman frowns a bit and realizes that she had already covered that topic. She spins the wheel again. “School Shooting” appears in the crosshairs. She frowns again and stamps her feet a b
Ahmad Sharabiani
Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult

The book deals with the issue of race in America and revolves around the protagonist, a delivery nurse named Ruth Jefferson. 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 to
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Once again, a great read from one of my favorite authors. The story felt very authentic to me and the topic, I'm so glad she covered. Tons of emotion. I listened to this on audible and enjoyed all the narrators.

I've read every one of Jodi's books and this is definitely one of my favorites. Very important authors note at the end...
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had a heavy heart starting this and it got that much heavier as I read. As much as it was not uplifting, there were moments of beauty here that made my heart swell.

This is a story about racism told from 3 perspectives: A black nurse not sure what choice to make; A skinhead who is sure of his choices; a defense attorney who is questioning her own choices.
A tough theme that still exists, sadly, in our culture. It's about justice - or injustice - and how is this defined? It's about the loss of li
WOW WOW WOW This is simply BRILLIANT!!!
This is officially my first Jodi Picoult book although I did listen to the prequel short story first.

What can I say that hasn't already been said about this book? The writing is superb and the narration is phenomenal!! This book will be added to my all-time favourites shelf.

It is a very emotional and POWERFUL story. Although it is a fictional story I feel it is so important and everyone should read this and LISTEN to the message carefully! This story stirr
Where to even start? This was one of the most difficult and thought provoking reads I’ve come across in a long time.

Ruth Jefferson is a dedicated Labor and Delivery nurse, working for the same hospital diligently for the past 20 years. She is hands-down one of their best! But today is quite different. New parents have just demanded she be removed from their newborn son’s case. They don’t want her having any contact with him. Why you ask? Well bluntly, because she’s African American and they are
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jodi Picoult is a daring, talented author who knows how to write new stuff about age old controversies. She can write a male or female character with equal ease. In this book, she writes about Ruth, her grown son, and Jodi Picoult writes from the point of view of the racist father (I thought the 'clan' KKK would be prominent in this book), and her white lawyer who took up her case, Kennedy.

Jodi Picoult obviously believes that God is in the details. She cares for each sentence so much, that, she
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, fiction
As always, Jodi Picoult does not disappoint. Other reviews have really done a stellar job telling you why you should read this book. I agree with them -- not just the good reviews, but some of the critical ones too. This book will make you think about the good, the bad, and the ugly. A fantastic read that I highly recommend!
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jodi Picoult is by far my most favourite author! She has done it again! The subject matter at times was hard to read as the story being told was very heartbreaking and disturbing but it was executed perfectly. This author always makes me think and I have always learned something new from reading one of her novels.

The novel was told in three voices that of Ruth, Kennedy & Turk. All three were very strong characters which all brought life to this story.

I love how Jodi Picoult finishes the storyli
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a 'beast' of a novel for me... not in the sense that it was long, but in that it was a difficult topic. I, like Picoult, think of myself as not discriminating in how I treat people, however, the issues this novel raises had me questioning that. A very thought provoking novel that I think people need to read. As uncomfortable as it may be, these issues need to be raised and reflected on. We can all do "small great things." ...more
Berit Talks Books
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, faves, 2017
5 Real, raw, and brilliant stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book is one of my top Reads of 2017 ......I read this book last January and it still sticks with me today, really a truly powerful story!

Jodi Picoult definitely writes books that make you think....

Not even sure where to start with this.... there is so much I want to say, but I don't want to ruin it for anybody...

The story was told from three different POVs... Ruth a nurse.... Kennedy A lawyer..... and Turk The white supremacist...

I think the author di
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing

We all have “preferences.” Men, women have a “look” they are drawn to. Blondes. Brunettes. Redheads. Tall. Short. Blue eyes. Skinny. Muscular. Even children, infants, long before they can understand or form words develop preferences, for people, sounds, and colors.

Color, the preference for specific “colors” is at the heart of this novel, or more specifically the intolerance for people who are a “different” color, or a “different” religion, a “different” lifestyle. Race, discrimination, hate crim
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: xx2017-completed
In a crisis situation, a nurse makes a choice that ends badly – and we are left to wonder if it could have possibly gone differently. Given the circumstances, given the pressures and the conflicts between training and fear, any person’s mind is likely to go into paralysis even for a fraction of a second. Would that fraction of a second have influenced the outcome? This is the basis of the story Jodi Picoult weaves, but it is by no means all there is. Woven throughout the story and, in fact, inte ...more
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A high 4 stars. I've had mixed experiences with Jodi Picoult. I've loved some of her books, and found others to be real duds. This one goes in the positive pile. Picoult typically picks a social issue, creates a crisis situation and tells the story from the perspective of a few characters caught up in the crisis. When her books work, it's because she is able to create powerful characters who give real dimension to the issues the books grapple with. Small Great Things is one that worked for me -- ...more
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, all-time-fav
OUTSTANDING!!!! This book is one of those books that is educating, jarring and inspirational. Kudos to Jodi for taking on the topic of racism and opening my eyes to things I wasn't aware of. I most definitely was schooled.

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way."
Lauren Cecile
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Six stars!
Jodi Picoult has written an outstanding book and shows a keen insight into race, racism and race-related issues. The newborn baby of a white supremacist couple dies during the care of a respected black nurse who'd been told by her boss that she was not to "touch" the baby. She is subsequently dismissed from the hospital, charged with murder and represented by rookie public defenders at a tumultuous jury trial. Picoult weaves in just enough backstory to explain the motivations behind th
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Racism is not black and white. It is not simply a matter of what is or is not; it is a matter of degree.

Jodi Picoult’s 2016 story about modern racism is masterfully crafted to describe this truism with a setting and themes that are unfortunately as relevant today as they would have been 40 years ago.

There are the white supremacists, described in the narrative as consumed and made cruel caricatures by their inherent hatred and on the other end of the spectrum there are the garden variety of passi
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Small Great Things is a story about Ruth, an African-American L&D nurse at a Connecticut hospital, who is given orders not to treat an infant because the infant’s parents, Turk and Brittany, are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth interacting with or administering care for their baby. Ruth faces a tough decision during a medical emergency: follow orders and do nothing, or break orders and risk insubordination. As a result of the situation, Ruth is charged with a serious crime and must endure ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Love on the Line 2 (Women at Work, #2)
  • The Great Alone
  • The Last Thing He Told Me
  • The Winthrop Woman
  • The Nightingale
  • The Four Winds
  • Before We Were Yours
  • Verity
  • Firefly Lane (Firefly Lane, #1)
  • Where the Crawdads Sing
  • Malibu Rising
  • The Husband's Secret
  • Apples Never Fall
  • What Alice Forgot
  • The Silent Patient
  • The Wish
  • Nine Perfect Strangers
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including Wish You Were Here, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

MAD HONEY, her new novel co-authored with Jennifer Finney Boylan, is available in hardcover, ebook, an

Other books in the series

Ruth Jefferson (2 books)
  • Shine

Articles featuring this book

Here’s a challenge: Before you scroll down, make a mental list of what you think are the biggest books of the past decade, in terms of...
84 likes · 73 comments
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” 130 likes
“Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.” 101 likes
More quotes…