Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things

byJodi Picoult

Hardcover | October 11, 2016

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A woman is caught in a gripping moral dilemma that resonates far beyond her place in time and history in #1 New York Times bestseller Jodi Picoult's latest novel.


A young woman and her husband, admitted to hospital to have a baby, request that their nurse be reassigned--they are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is black, to touch their baby. The hospital complies, but the baby later goes into cardiac distress when Ruth is on duty. She hesitates before rushing in to perform CPR. When her indecision ends in tragedy, Ruth finds herself on trial, represented by a white public defender who warns against bringing race into the courtroom. As the two come to develop a truer understanding of each other's lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they each hold most dear.

Praise for Small Great Things

“I couldn’t put it down. Her best yet!”New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman
 
“A compelling, can’t-put-it-down drama with a trademark [Jodi] Picoult twist.”Good Housekeeping
 
“It’s Jodi Picoult, the prime provider of literary soul food. This riveting drama is sure to be supremely satisfying and a bravely thought-provoking tale on the dangers of prejudice.”Redbook
 
“Jodi Picoult is never afraid to take on hot topics, and in Small Great Things, she tackles race and discrimination in a way that will grab hold of you and refuse to let you go. . . . This page-turner is perfect for book clubs.”Popsugar

About The Author

JODI PICOULT is the author of twenty-three novels, including Leaving Time and the #1 New York Times bestsellers Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper. Follow her on Twitter @jodipicoult, or visit her website jodipicoult.com. The author lives in Hanover, NH.
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Details & Specs

Title:Small Great ThingsFormat:HardcoverDimensions:480 pages, 9.6 × 6.55 × 1.52 inPublished:October 11, 2016Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345813383

ISBN - 13:9780345813381

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RuthThe miracle happened on West Seventy-fourth Street, in the home where Mama worked. It was a big brownstone encircled by a wrought-iron fence, and overlooking either side of the ornate door were gargoyles, their granite faces carved from my nightmares. They terrified me, so I didn’t mind the fact that we always entered through the less-impressive side door, whose keys Mama kept on a ribbon in her purse.Mama had been working for Sam Hallowell and his family since before my sister and I were born. You may not have recognized his name, but you would have known him the minute he said hello. He had been the unmistakable voice in the mid-1960s who announced before every show: The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC! In 1976, when the miracle happened, he was the network’s head of programming. The doorbell beneath those gargoyles was the famously pitched three-note chime everyone associates with NBC. Sometimes, when I came to work with my mother, I’d sneak outside and push the button and hum along.The reason we were with Mama that day was because it was a snow day. School was canceled, but we were too little to stay alone in our apartment while Mama went to work—which she did, through snow and sleet and probably also earthquakes and Armageddon. She muttered, stuffing us into our snowsuits and boots, that it didn’t matter if she had to cross a blizzard to do it, but God forbid Ms. Mina had to spread the peanut butter on her own sandwich bread. In fact the only time I remember Mama taking time off work was twenty-five years later, when she had a double hip replacement, generously paid for by the Hallowells. She stayed home for a week, and even after that, when it didn’t quite heal right and she insisted on returning to work, Mina found her tasks to do that kept her off her feet. But when I was little, during school vacations and bouts of fever and snow days like this one, Mama would take us with her on the B train downtown.Mr. Hallowell was away in California that week, which happened often, and which meant that Ms. Mina and Christina needed Mama even more. So did Rachel and I, but we were better at taking care of ourselves, I suppose, than Ms. Mina was.When we finally emerged at Seventy-second Street, the world was white. It was not just that Central Park was caught in a snow globe. The faces of the men and women shuddering through the storm to get to work looked nothing like mine, or like my cousins’ or neighbors’.I had not been into any Manhattan homes except for the Hallowells’, so I didn’t know how extraordinary it was for one family to live, alone, in this huge building. But I remember thinking it made no sense that Rachel and I had to put our snowsuits and boots into the tiny, cramped closet in the kitchen, when there were plenty of empty hooks and open spaces in the main entry, where Christina’s and Ms. Mina’s coats were hanging. Mama tucked away her coat, too, and her lucky scarf—the soft one that smelled like her, and that Rachel and I fought to wear around our house because it felt like petting a guinea pig or a bunny under your fingers. I waited for Mama to move through the dark rooms like Tinker Bell, alighting on a switch or a handle or a knob so that the sleeping beast of a house was gradually brought to life.“You two be quiet,” Mama told us, “and I’ll make you some of Ms. Mina’s hot chocolate.”It was imported from Paris, and it tasted like heaven. So as Mama tied on her white apron, I took a piece of paper from a kitchen drawer and a packet of crayons I’d brought from home and silently started to sketch. I made a house as big as this one. I put a family inside: me, Mama, Rachel. I tried to draw snow, but I couldn’t. The flakes I’d made with the white crayon were invisible on the paper. The only way to see them was to tilt the paper sideways toward the chandelier light, so I could make out the shimmer where the crayon had been.“Can we play with Christina?” Rachel asked. Christina was six, falling neatly between the ages of Rachel and me. Christina had the biggest bedroom I had ever seen and more toys than anyone I knew. When she was home and we came to work with our mother, we played school with her and her teddy bears, drank water out of real miniature china teacups, and braided the corn-silk hair of her dolls. Unless she had a friend over, in which case we stayed in the kitchen and colored.But before Mama could answer, there was a scream so piercing and so ragged that it stabbed me in the chest. I knew it did the same to Mama, because she nearly dropped the pot of water she was carrying to the sink. “Stay here,” she said, her voice already trailing behind her as she ran upstairs.Rachel was the first one out of her chair; she wasn’t one to follow instructions. I was drawn in her wake, a balloon tied to her wrist. My hand skimmed over the banister of the curved staircase, not touching.Ms. Mina’s bedroom door was wide open, and she was twisting on the bed in a sinkhole of satin sheets. The round of her belly rose like a moon; the shining whites of her eyes made me think of merry-go-round horses, frozen in flight. “It’s too early, Lou,” she gasped.“Tell that to this baby,” Mama replied. She was holding the telephone receiver. Ms. Mina held her other hand in a death grip. “You stop pushing, now,” she said. “The ambulance’ll be here any minute.”I wondered how fast an ambulance could get here in all that snow.“Mommy?”It wasn’t until I heard Christina’s voice that I realized the noise had woken her up. She stood between Rachel and me. “You three, go to Miss Christina’s room,” Mama ordered, with steel in her voice. “Now.”But we remained rooted to the spot as Mama quickly forgot about us, lost in a world made of Ms. Mina’s pain and fear, trying to be the map that she could follow out of it. I watched the cords stand out on Ms. Mina’s neck as she groaned; I saw Mama kneel on the bed between her legs and push her gown over her knees. I watched the pink lips between Ms. Mina’s legs purse and swell and part. There was the round knob of a head, a knot of shoulder, a gush of blood and fluid, and suddenly, a baby was cradled in Mama’s palms.“Look at you,” she said, with love written over her face. “Weren’t you in a hurry to get into this world?”Two things happened at once: the doorbell rang, and Christina started to cry. “Oh, honey,” Ms. Mina crooned, not scary anymore but still sweaty and red-faced. She held out her hand, but Christina was too terrified by what she had seen, and instead she burrowed closer to me. Rachel, ever practical, went to answer the front door. She returned with two paramedics, who swooped in and took over, so that what Mama had done for Ms. Mina became like everything else she did for the Hallowells: seamless and invisible.The Hallowells named the baby Louis, after Mama. He was fine, even though he was almost a full month early, a casualty of the barometric pressure dropping with the storm, which caused a PROM—a premature rupture of membranes. Of course, I didn’t know that back then. I only knew that on a snowy day in Manhattan I had seen the very start of someone. I’d been with that baby before anyone or anything in this world had a chance to disappoint him.The experience of watching Louis being born affected us all differently. Christina had her baby via surrogate. Rachel had five. Me, I became a labor and delivery nurse.When I tell people this story, they assume the miracle I am referring to during that long-ago blizzard was the birth of a baby. True, that was astonishing. But that day I witnessed a greater wonder. As Christina held my hand and Ms. Mina held Mama’s, there was a moment—one heartbeat, one breath—where all the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in a desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman, helping another.That miracle, I’ve spent thirty-nine years waiting to see again.

Editorial Reviews

#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER “Picoult carefully shows how close the dangerous beliefs of someone like Turk can come to all of us, and also how the seemingly innocuous prejudices of a person like Kennedy can do just as much damage. . . . I admire her for telling this particular story, even if some might feel parts of it aren’t hers to tell. . . . It’s a story that should be told, no matter the pitfalls, and I hope other well-known authors follow Picoult’s brave path, forcing their captive audiences to face unpleasant facts and perhaps enact change—even if the only change is talking about things we normally keep hidden inside.” —Marissa Stapley, author of Mating for Life, The Globe and Mail“If there’s one word to describe author Jodi Picoult, it’s fierce. The bestselling author . . . has never been one to shy away from hot-button topics.” —Sue Carter, editor of Quill & Quire, Metro“Small Great Things tackles tricky subject matter with grace. . . . I found her novel a gripping read about an issue of urgency. She treats the subject matter with respect and is clearly aware of her own lack of first-person knowledge or experience of racism. . . . Picoult’s stories are always . . . well-written, fast-paced, multi-faceted and current. Small Great Things is no different. It will leave you with lots to think about, more knowledge than you had before and a deeper understanding of America today.” —Vancouver Sun “[G]ripping . . . offers a thought-provoking examination of racism in America today, both overt and subtle. Her many readers will find much to discuss in the pages of this topical, moving book.” —Booklist (starred review) “It’s Jodi Picoult, the prime provider of literary soul food. This riveting drama is sure to be supremely satisfying and a bravely thought-provoking tale on the dangers of prejudice.” —Redbook “[Picoult] tackles race and discrimination in a way that will grab hold of you and refuse to let you go. . . . This page-turner is perfect for book clubs.” —Popsugar “I couldn’t put it down. Her best yet!” —Alice Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author  “A compelling, can’t-put-it-down drama with a trademark [Jodi] Picoult twist.” —Good Housekeeping“Small Great Things is the most important novel Jodi Picoult has ever written. Frank, uncomfortably introspective and right on the day’s headlines, it will challenge her readers. . . . [I]t’s . . . exciting to have a high-profile writer like Picoult take an earnest risk to expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.” —The Washington Post “[Jodi Picoult] is adept at taking on thorny issues—medical ethics, mass shootings, the death penalty—and recasting them on a relatable human scale. Her latest plunge into the current, Small Great Things, arrives at a pointed time when institutional racism—its violence and the entitlement it confers on some—is the subject of near daily commentary. . . . Weaving three first-person accounts . . . Small Great Things is big on ambition. . . . Many of the novel’s most tender observations have little to do with race but with Ruth’s gifts as a nurse, her grace. . . . Given that Picoult is wrestling with the subject of white privilege, writing Ruth’s story in the first person might seem like an exercise of that very prerogative. Can Ruth be the hero of her own story? Or must she be saved by Kennedy? Turns out, this is Picoult’s driving concern, too. That Small Great Things embraces this question with empathy, hope and humility is no small feat.” —Newsday “To say this story is horrifyingly real undersells it—Picoult chillingly details Turk’s transition to white supremacist. . . . [T]his story belongs to Ruth and Turk and the changes they undergo as the book unfolds. There are times it’s hard to read because of the window it opens into our 2016 world, but it’s even harder to put down. Picoult has outdone herself with Small Great Things.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch“Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things has had an even more powerful impact on me than John Howard Griffin’s book [Black Like Me], and I am still trying to absorb it all. I nearly put it down during the first few chapters. Some of the main characters are white supremacists, and I found the hatred expressed difficult to read. . . . I would have missed a treasure if I had not returned to Small Great Things. . . . For me, Kennedy’s journey was in many ways my journey. She is confident she does not see ‘color’ in people, but Ruth has a lifetime of lessons to teach her, and she taught me, too. . . . I learned that racism has two sides, and the privileges afforded whites are just as big a problem as the overt discrimination against those of color. Revelations abound in this skillfully written novel.” —Sandy Mahaffey, The Free Lance-Star “This book certainly left me thinking, and hopefully it will lead to honest conversations and a better understanding about race and prejudice and how we can learn to live together with true respect and equity. I highly recommend this book to all readers.” —The Missourian“Author Jodi Picoult weaves a complicated story. . . . Small Great Things takes a raw, critical look at racism, specifically, the subtleties that perpetuate, instead of change, a flawed system. Active racism is easy to spot, but passive racism is more difficult to discern. This novel made me ponder and reconsider how I really think and feel about these issues. In my opinion, this powerful book is written for our times and will generate deep discussions for book clubs.” —Steamboat Pilot & Today (Colorado)“[A] great make-you-think novel. . . . Author Jodi Picoult wrapped a story around a nugget of news, and it’s not a particularly relaxing thing: her stellar characterization—for Turk, especially—will make you squirm. . . . Picoult peppers her story with precisely-right extras, a properly-unwound trial, and a perfect ending to this glued-to-your-hands novel. Fans of Picoult, get ready, set, go. You know you want this book—just as you will if you’re a lover of make-you-think novels. Start Small Great Things and you can’t put it down.” —Quad-City Times (Iowa and Illinois) “Picoult can be relied upon to find the themes that are most important to our national conversation and then to explore them with wit, warmth, and skill. . . . This excellent, timely novel is sure to be loved by Picoult’s fans and is certain to create new ones.” —Michael Hermann, owner of Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, NH, American Booksellers Association