Small Great Things

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picault (reviewed 11 January 2018)

Jodi Picault's “Small Great Things” generated a lot of discussion, especially when linked to Debbie Irvine’s “Waking up White” social justice questions.

Our group really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading Jodi’s other work. Most members rated it as 4.5 out of 5, with 3 the lowest rating and 5 the highest

Twenty-five years into her writing career Jodi Picault has finally seen the fruition of an idea that she had at the beginning. Some might marvel at the timeliness of Small Great Things and the mirror its storyline of racism and prejudice holds up to the turbulence of present-day politics. “What’s so shocking, honestly, is that right now, a lot of white people in my country are being horrified by something that people of colour knew has been there all along.”

This goes straight to the heart of one of the major themes of Small Great Things: the ingrained prejudice in the political and social status quo that can rapidly mutate into an explosive, uncontrollable and damaging situation. Jodi Picault weaves all sorts of other elements into the story of her protagonist,

Ruth Jefferson, a model citizen who has worked hard to build her career, to survive the death of her US army husband, killed by an IED in Afghanistan, and to bring up their son, Edison, in a small house in an affluent and largely white suburb in Connecticut. Ruth’s sister has tuned in to the reality of their lives as women of colour whilst Ruth “has believed very much that she can fly under the radar of white society and nobody would ever notice that she was there.”

Jodi Picault’s hope “is that it’s not just preaching to the choir, that it’s getting into the hands of people who perhaps have not put themselves in the shoes of those who were not born with white skin, and who are tapping into that great schism, that divide, and that empathy that they need to find to realise that their lives really have been different from people of colour in the United States; and that they will never face the micro-aggressions that people of colour face on a daily basis”.