Book Club Discussion Questions for 'Small Great Things' by Jodi Picoult
Small Great Things is an incredibly powerful story of what racism means today for people of all colors and faiths. Jodi Picoult’s story follows three main characters during a moral and social dilemma that may lead you to question what you believe about privilege, power and race. We couldn’t put this book down because of its intensely developed characters through empathy, intelligence and candor. The author takes on race, prejudice, justice and compassion all at once making for a true page-turner.
Do you relate to any of the main three characters (Ruth, Turk or Kennedy) and why? Think about what you have in common with the other two characters as well -- how can you relate to them?
Did the Author’s Note change your reading experience at all?
As Ruth’s relationship with her sister, Adisa, is introduced to the reader, it is fueled with tension. How does the relationship change over the course of the novel?
All of the characters change over the course of the novel, but Turk’s transformation is perhaps the most extreme. What do you think contributed to that change?
Why do you think Kennedy decides to take Ruth’s case? What makes it so important to her?
Was your perspective on racism or privilege changed by reading this book? Is there anything you now see differently?
Do you think legal action would have been brought against Ruth if she were white? How far back in the story do you need to go to consider this outcome?
Turk’s ideology targets black people, people of Jewish heritage, and queer people. With that in mind, consider the below three questions:
Do you think legal action would have been brought against Ruth if she was of Eastern European Jewish heritage?
Do you think legal action would have been brought against Ruth if her sexual orientation were other than heterosexual?
What are the similarities and differences between these three identities in terms of navigating hate groups? Everyday life in America?
Why do you think Ruth lies to Kennedy about touching Davis when he first starts seizing? What would you have done in her position?
What do you think Kennedy learns in this story about the ways being white has shielded her from racial discrimination? Did you feel she was open to learning? If yes, how did she demonstrate that? If no, how did she demonstrate that?
Did you find yourself feeling both an aversion to and sympathy for Turk and his wife throughout this novel?
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” The title of the book actually comes from the aforementioned quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. Ruth’s mother mentions it on p. 173. What does this quote mean to you? What are some examples of small great things done by the characters in the novel?
Kennedy seeks out a neighborhood in which she is the only white person to help her gain some perspective. Can you think of an example of a time when something about your identity made you an outsider? How were you affected by that experience?
This story carries a theme of parenthood throughout the novel. What does being a parent mean to Ruth, to Kennedy and to Turk? What does it mean to you?
On p. 427 Kennedy describes a difference between “equity” and “equality”. Do you think Ruth gets equity from the trial?
Were you surprised by the ending of Small Great Things? If so, why? Did you envision a different ending?
Have you changed anything in your daily life after reading Small Great Things?
Would you recommend Small Great Things? Why or why not?
This novel is being made into a major motion picture. Do you think after reading the book you would see the movie? Do you think that Julia Roberts and Viola Davis will do justice as Kennedy and Ruth, respectively?
Julia Blanchard is a content contributor for JUGs by night, by day she works at Amazon on some of Alexa’s feature expansion programs. You can follow her @jcblanchard6 on Instagram.