Small Great Things

Small Great Things


Jodi Picoult

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Small Great Things Characters

Ruth Jefferson

The protagonist of the novel; a labor and delivery nurse at the Mercy-West Haven hospital. Ruth was raised by Mama, a single mother who worked her entire life as a domestic servant for a… read analysis of Ruth Jefferson

Turk Bauer

Turk is one of the most powerful white supremacists on the east coast. He learned to hate black people when his older brother, Tanner, died in a car crash with a black man. This… read analysis of Turk Bauer

Kennedy McQuarrie

The white public defender who represents Ruth. Kennedy lives a privileged life; her husband Micah is an eye surgeon and makes enough money for Kennedy to work her low-paying job as a public defender… read analysis of Kennedy McQuarrie

Brit Bauer

Turk's wife. Brit is Francis Mitchum's daughter and is therefore considered the princess of the white power movement. Francis raised her by himself and raised her to believe that her mother, Adeleread analysis of Brit Bauer


Ruth's seventeen-year-old son. Prior to Davis's death, Edison is an honor student on the fast track to college. He attends a prestigious school and Ruth is extremely proud of him. However, around the… read analysis of Edison
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Ruth's mother. She raised Rachel and Ruth by herself while working six days per week for the Hallowell family as a domestic servant. She delivered Ms. Mina's second baby, and Ruth notes that… read analysis of Mama

Francis Mitchum

Brit's father, a former skinhead and a prominent figure in the white power movement. He raised Brit by himself after his girlfriend, Adele, cheated on him with a black man and, as he… read analysis of Francis Mitchum

Rachel / Adisa

Ruth's sister. She was born as Rachel but in her late teens and early twenties, she decided she wanted to connect to her African roots and changed her name to Adisa. She and Ruth have… read analysis of Rachel / Adisa


Christina is Ms. Mina's daughter. She's a year older than Ruth and growing up, the two were close friends. However, Christina led a life of privilege and never fully understood what Ruth's life was… read analysis of Christina


Kennedy's mother. Ava is very proper and the epitome of feminine womanhood, having been raised on the debutante circuit in the South. Though both Kennedy and Micah find this tiring, Violet loves it: it… read analysis of Ava


Howard is a young black lawyer who is hired in Kennedy's office. Kennedy goes out of her way to be nice to him when Ed spouts off that Howard was a diversity hire, but… read analysis of Howard

Raine Tesco

A white supremacist in his early twenties who takes an interest in the teenaged Turk. He introduces Turk to the central tenets of white supremacy, takes him to several festivals, and eventually, initiates Turk… read analysis of Raine Tesco

Wallace Mercy

A black television personality and preacher. Most of his work consists of activism to raise awareness for black people who are either wrongfully convicted of crimes or are murdered by police. Ruth finds him too… read analysis of Wallace Mercy

Davis Bauer

Turk and Brit's baby. He dies at three days old after his circumcision and Ruth is blamed for his death. Over the course of the ensuing trial, it comes out that Davis had a… read analysis of Davis Bauer


Kennedy and Micah's four-year-old daughter. Thanks to Kennedy's unwillingness to watch her language around her daughter, Violet sometimes curses. Violet adores Disney princesses and her grandmother, Ava, who throws lavish tea parties when… read analysis of Violet

Odette Lawton

The black prosecutor who represents the state of Connecticut in Ruth's trial. She's sleek and professional, and Kennedy knows her to be ruthless and unfriendly. Odette makes sure that Turk and Brit can sit… read analysis of Odette Lawton

Judge Thunder

The judge who hears Ruth's case. Kennedy has had past experience with him and knows that he's a difficult judge who pre-judges cases and likes to make examples of people who step out of… read analysis of Judge Thunder

Ms. Mina

Mama's employer. She's a wealthy lady who lives in a Manhattan brownstone. When Ruth was a child, she watched Ms. Mina give birth to her son and the experience made her want to be… read analysis of Ms. Mina


The charge nurse in the labor and delivery department of the Mercy-West Haven hospital. She's only been at the hospital for ten years and she and Ruth were both in the running for the charge… read analysis of Marie


A fellow nurse at Mercy-West Haven in the labor and delivery department. Though she's a good nurse, Corinne is chronically late and blames her lateness on everything from the weather to her boyfriend. She and… read analysis of Corinne


Kennedy's husband. He's an eye surgeon, and his paycheck allows Kennedy to keep her job as a public defender without experiencing financial hardship. Micah is very supportive of Kennedy and her career, though he… read analysis of Micah

Juror Number 12

A white, inner city schoolteacher called for jury duty during Ruth's trial. During jury selection, both Kennedy and Howard have reservations about her—Kennedy's questions reveal that while she says she's not racist, she holds… read analysis of Juror Number 12

Sam Hallowell

Ms. Mina's husband; he's deceased in the novel's present but appears in Ruth's flashbacks. He used to work for NBC and announced when shows were presented in color. Though Ruth didn't see him… read analysis of Sam Hallowell


Adele, a middle-aged black woman, appears with Wallace Mercy on the final day of trial and reveals that she is Brit's mother. Francis later explains that he and Adele were young and in love… read analysis of Adele

Turk's Mother

Though not a member of any white supremacist group, Turk's mother is nonetheless a racist and hateful woman: she spits on the black man who she believed killed her eldest son, Tanner. Following… read analysis of Turk's Mother


Turk's older brother; he died in a car accident a few months after he turned sixteen. Though Turk grew up believing that Tanner died in a racially motivated murder at the hands of a… read analysis of Tanner


Turk's maternal grandfather. He was a hardened war veteran who never liked Turk's father and believed that Turk's parents were raising him to be soft. When Turk and Turk's mother moved in with him… read analysis of Gramps

Dr. Atkins

A pediatrician at Mercy-West Haven. She's a friendly doctor who's highly qualified and well respected. She performed Davis's circumcision, was called to the nursery when Davis started to code, and later testifies during the… read analysis of Dr. Atkins

Tom Metzger

The leader of a white supremacist organization and one of Francis's friends. When Brit was little, he was an uncle to her. After it comes out that Brit's mother, Adele, is black, Francis… read analysis of Tom Metzger

Turk's Father

Turk doesn't say much about his father except that Turk's mother's dad, Gramps, didn't like him. Turk's parents split up after Tanner dies and several years later, Turk discovers that his father is… read analysis of Turk's Father


Edison's longtime best friend who, when Edison expresses interest in dating his younger sister, tells Edison that his parents would go crazy if Whitney dated a black boy. This comes as a surprise to… read analysis of Bryce


Turk's first recruit to the North American Death Squad at a community college in Hartford. He's an integral member of the crew until he and Turk get pulled over one night and the police… read analysis of Yorkey
Minor Characters
Carla Luongo
The Hispanic Risk Management lawyer at Mercy-New Haven hospital. She speaks with Turk and Brit about Davis's death, and though she's initially put off by Turk's swastika tattoo, she appears sympathetic to their version of events that places all the blame on Ruth.
Ed Gourakis
One of Kennedy's coworkers. Kennedy notes that Ed became a public defender because he has a trust fund and can afford to work for nearly nothing. He's caustic, self-important, and racist—he insists to Kennedy that Howard was only hired to meet a diversity requirement.
A young black man that Turk befriended when he was in jail. Turk managed to humanize Twinkie enough that when Twinkie took offense to Turk's use of racist slurs, Turk started to question whether or not he should use the language. =
One of Ruth's patients. She's a stylish woman and her husband has never seen her without makeup on, so Ruth procures her lipstick in the hours after her daughter's birth.
One of Ruth's patients. She confides in Ruth during labor that she believes she became pregnant after being raped on a business trip. Her husband doesn't know. Eliza relaxes as soon as she sees that her daughter looks just like her husband.
Christina's husband. He decides to run for Congress a few weeks after Davis dies. As Ruth's court case progresses, he tries to forbid Christina from seeing Ruth.
Roarke Matthews
The lawyer Turk speaks to about his proposed civil suit against Ruth. He insists they need to wait to file the civil suit until the State's criminal suit is over.
The night nurse who helped Brit deliver Davis. She warns Ruth that there's something off about Turk, but she has no idea that he's a white supremacist.
Wesley Jefferson
Ruth's late husband; he died in Afghanistan about ten years before the start of the novel. Edison looks just like him.
Detective MacDougall
A hulking police officer who process Turk's complaint against Ruth and later interrogates her.
A white nursing student in her thirties. She shadows Ruth one day and a patient initially believes that Virginia, rather than Ruth, is the nurse in charge.
Detective Leong
An Asian-American police officer who plays "good cop" when the police interrogate Ruth.
Liza Lott
A black transwoman who's transported to jail with Ruth. It's implied that she's there on prostitution charges, and this isn't her first time going to jail.
Turk's second wife; they marry several years after Davis's death. She works while Turk cares for their daughter, Carys, and Turk took her name when they married.
A former patient of Ruth's who didn't want to hold her deceased baby, who died in utero.
Turk's three-year-old daughter with Deborah. Her name means "love" in Welsh.
Ivan Kelly-Garcia
The neonatologist who explains Davis's heel stick results to Kennedy.
Isaac Hager
The anesthesiologist who was part of the crash team to save Davis. He testifies in court.
Dr. Bill Binnie
A young and handsome medical examiner who performed Davis's autopsy.
Ruth's white cellmate in jail.
Ava's African-American childhood maid.
The young woman who trains Ruth at McDonald's.
Kennedy's boss; an irritable and harried man.
Officer Ramirez
Ruth's counselor while she's in jail.
Jack DeNardi
A paper pusher in the office at Mercy-West Haven Hospital.
Uncle Leon
Kennedy's racist great-uncle.