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I am a massive Jodi Picoult fan and have enjoyed every book that I have read of hers. I did sway away from her books a while ago (as I was started to get a little too obsessed) but started reading them again recently. The first one I picked up was Change of Heart.
= Change of Heart =
Change of Heart is the story of a death row prisoner, Shay Bourne, who believes his only way to redemption is to donate his heart to the sister of his victim. However, death by lethal injection does not allow for organ donation. Can Shay have his sentence changed to another form of death?
I was surprised at how quickly Picoult jumped into this story, usually there are a few pages before something drastic happens and you get what's going on. But with Change of Heart everything pretty much started from the first page and I was instantly gripped!
I love that all of Picoult's books are captioned with 'What would you do?', every story gets you thinking the same question. Change of Heart had me thinking 'What would I do' in so many different ways.
Firstly, we meet Shay's victim's mother and sister. Her sister is desperate for a new heart and time is running out. However, when they are offered Shay's heart, they begin to battle with themselves and each other to make a decision. This man owes them something, as he has already taken the person that they love away from them, but at the same time, does she want his heart in her body?
We also meet Shay's legal team, who struggle with their conscience throughout the story, and other inmates on Shay's wing, who reflect on their own crimes.
I don't want to give too much of the story away, but there are twists and turns all the way through and, as always, a massive twist towards the end that gets you second guessing everything you have already read.
I would definitely recommend any of Jodi Picoult's books to someone who loves reading and getting lost in a good book. I can never put her books down!!
Here is another one of Jodi Picoult's books where she explores emotive, controversial issues. In 'Change of Heart' she discusses religion, beliefs, the death penalty and forgiveness. Shay Bourne is a man in prison, on death row, for killing Kurt Nealon and his young daughter Elizabeth Nealon. June Nealon is the wife and mother of those murdered by Shay, she is left to raise her other eleven year old daughter who desperately needs a heart transplant. Shay Bourne wishes to donate his heart to Claire as he is the only match, the story is centred around this decision.
Picoult tells the story from each character's point of view, like in many of her books this helps us to warm to her characters and to explore the emotions they are going through, I feel this enables us to sympathise and relate to the characters involved. Like many others I can see how some reviewers have compared the book to 'The Green Mile' by Stephen King, whereby the prisoners in both books have some sort of 'special powers'. However don't let this put you off because the similarities end there, the two characters are completely different.
I would say 'Change of Heart' is quite political and definitely makes you questions your own beliefs. Jodi Picoult is in her element within this book as she explores many sensitive issues such as moral dilemma, religious beliefs, restorative justice and forgiveness all within one page turner. As I have previously said I love a book which makes you think, 'Change of Heart' 100% did! A great read!
This is a review of the 2008 book 'Change of Heart' by Jodi Picoult, an author I'm really starting to get into. Her original style of writing makes the book really enjoyable to read.
In this book, each chapter is narrated from a different character's point of view. June (mother), Maggie (Lawyer), Michael (Reverend), Lucius (Prisoner) about a person they all have in common: Shay, who has been given the death sentence for a double murder.
The book has many twists and turns and covers lots of religious and political points. At times, I found it hard reading but once I got past the mid way point, I was tearing through the book.
All this is covered in the first two chapters:
* The whole story is leading to Shay's death. He wants to give his heart to the sister of the girl he murdered (she needs a transplant and his heart is a good match). The conundrum is that death by lethal injection will render his heart unusable. If he is hung though, his body can be kept clinically alive to donate his organs.
* The mother of the child who was murdered along with her second husband has a moral dilemma about whether she wants her daughter to have the heart of the murderer. But with no other suitable donors coming forward, she doesn't have much choice if she wants to keep her daughter alive.
* There's something unusual about Shay. You start to wonder did he really do the double murder? In prison, he seems a bit like Jesus, miracles happen like bringing things back to life; curing the ill; raising the dead; turning water into wine and feeding many people from one stick of gum. How could a man this gentle be so evil?
Father Michael is an interesting character, at times questioning his own faith in the quest to bring spiritual enlightenment and peace to Shay. Maggie, the Lawyer is a bit of a sad character, living alone with her rabbit and eating half a can of soup for tea (saving the other half for tomorrow) and letting her mother down over her lack of boyfriends and husband material. She gets a lot out of her relationship with Shay, slipping over the boundary of lawyer-client (but not in a sexual way) and caring a lot for him. All this and the outcome is death regardless, all she can do is help him fight for the type of execution he wants.
For the first few chapters I could have put this book back down and left it. It was a bit slow to get going but I'm glad I persevered as it truly got better as you became embedded in the story. It reminded me of the Tom Hanks film "The Green Mile" in places too. If you have read other Picoult novels you will probably enjoy this one.
I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for a long time now and have worked through most of her books. Whilst Change of Heart isn't one of her newer ones it's one I've only just managed to have the time to get around to reading.
Like all Picoult's books this focuses on a moral dilemma, this time the question is if your child needed a heart and the only one available was from a murderer, would you take it? The plot involves a double murder involving a child and a police officer. The person responsible for the murders is convicted and sentenced to death. Eleven years later the widowers other child is seriously ill and desperately needs a heart to save her life, so far no match has been found. When Shay (the convicted murderer) hears of this search for a heart, he offers his own. After checks confirm that he is a perfect match the mother is then left with a difficult choice - does she take the heart of the person who killed her daughter and husband or does she risk the life of her other daughter too by refusing the heart?
I very rarely have anything negative to say about any of Picoult's books and this is no different. I loved this and it had me gripped right from the beginning. Like most (if not all) of Picoult's novels the book is divided into four parts each with chapters written by different people: Michael, a priest who is Shay's spiritual advisor in the latter part of his sentence; Maggie, Shay's lawyer during the latter part of his sentence; June, the widow and mother of both the child who was murdered and the child who needs a heart and finally Lucius, a convicted murderer in the cell next to Shay.
I love the way her books are written in general but especially the way she breaks them down into different people's viewpoints. I feel this allows a more in-depth view of the main character (in this case Shay) as it allows you to see him from many different people's points of view. When reading the chapters written from Michael, Maggie and Lucius' point of view you develop a certain level of empathy with Shay as they are the ones that get closest to him and see him in a way noone else does but then reading the chapters written from June's point of view you remember the real tragedy underlining all of this - that a young child and a police officer were murdered.
The characters themselves are very well portrayed, not just Shay but all the others involved. Michael I found a little hard to relate to at first, but after having read a couple of chapters from his point of view he seemed to become more "real" to me and develop that certain amount of depth that a character needs for me to be able to relate to them. I do think however that this may have been due to his role at the beginning of the book since before becoming Shay's spiritual advisor he was on the jury that sentenced him to death so that's a big jump for a character to make. June's character in particular I found I could relate to very well. She obviously still harboured a lot of hatred for Shay but then who can blame her after he killed her husband and child? Her chapters however provided that certain level of realism needed and kept the story grounded in what the whole story was about. I would say that although the story obviously focused on Shay that it is June herself who is really the main character - after all, the whole tragedy underlining this book does revolve around her.
This book deals with a lot of questions, along with the continually underlying question of whether or not she will take the heart it also deals with questions around cellular memory and Picoult sites some interesting studies that seem to prove cellular memory does exist despite Claire (her surviving daughters) doctor insisting that there is no scientific proof that cellular memory is a real phenomenon. There is also some religious questions in this book - besides Michael being a priest and Maggie's father being a Rabbi; Shay, whilst in prison, starts performing miracles such as turning the water in their tier to wine, curing Lucius' AIDS, saving a correctional officers daughter and bringing a dead correctional officer back to life. This obviously takes some explaining and when news of these miracles reaches outside the prison walls there are questions revolving around whether or not Shay is really Jesus and he develops a rather large number of supporters that camp outside the prison wanting him to heal them.
There is also a twist towards the end of the book that I didn't see coming at all and I found really added to the story and especially Shay's character. There is also an Epilogue written by Claire herself and whilst this story does revolve around her you don't really hear too much about her - only the small mention she gets in the chapters written from June's point of view and so I felt this was a really good addition to this book and a good ending to the novel.
This is one I would highly recommend not only to Picoult fans but also to anyone who likes books that deal with difficult questions and make you think. Just make sure you don't have anything planned for the next couple of days because you won't be able to put it down!
I am gradually making my way through Jodi Picoult's books. The first two I have read I have totally thoroughly enjoyed and so looked forward to the next.
My third book was change of heart.
This book intrigued me from the start, I know a fair amount about organ donation through the job that I do and felt this book could be ethically provoking. Now don't get me wrong I know this is a fictional book, however Picoult's previous books have to a certain extent had an ability to ring somewhat true in some cases.
The front of the book says "Your daughter needs a new heart. The only match comes from a murderer. What would you do?"
The initial statement issues you a challenge and gets your mind racing from emotional to ethical in a beat. As you start to read the book it is set out in Picoult's general format. Each chapter is from the perspective of another character, giving you a chance to develop your thoughts from each persons point of view.
There are no real main characters in my opinion , the story seems to be divided up between numerous ones which is quite unusual.
June - The mother whose child and husband have been murdered. Pregnant at the time of the murder this is now the child who needs a new heart. June's thoughts are laid out as she struggles to come to terms with the murders and her child's impending death should a new heart not be found. Then she is informed of an available heart - but not only is the person not dead yet - they are a murderer - her husband and daughters murderer. She battles the emotional roller coaster along side you as the reader, trying to decide what to do. Her character is well portrayed.
Clare - The daughter who needs a heart. A somewhat small amount of the book is spent on her, but it does give an idea of how she feels and the mother daughter relationship tested to the limits. A little more on how she felt about the heart of the murderer would have been interesting.
Michael - A priest. Michael becomes a religious guide for the murderer, but has deep seated turmoil as he was once on the jury that convicted him in the first place. His character is quite an insightful one. Not that I am religious, but it does bring about the views which would challenge many a priest I am sure.
Maggie - The lawyer. Initially taking the case as a stance for brining the death penalty into the public eye, she becomes more deeply involved than she could ever imagine.
Shay - The murderer. Now this is an interesting one! A young man who seems to have deep rooted issues, which apparently lead him to do what he did. Whilst in prison the story becomes a little strange and I found it quite difficult to keep up. The impression is given that Shay may be some sort of messiah. It didn't seem to fit that well with the prospect of the donation to me, it kind of made the story split in two directions.
There are several other characters which are given chapters and help to bring perspective to specific areas of the story. There is the twist in the end in true Picoult style, which again does not fail to surprise.
I found the book challenging to read as previously mentioned, it seemed to split in two - the religious side and the donation side. I found the unrealistic parts of the donation quite hard to get my head around. Yes it is fictional and some things are different in the US, but I felt this was just a step to far from reality, especially when the messiah part is added.
I guess in the end a good book but not one of my favourites.
Price variable £3.00 for used and about £5.00 in some shops RRP £7.99
For a brief time I was somewhat hooked on Jodi Picoult's writing (I was staying with friends for quite a long time and they had a whole shelf full of her novels!) however after a while I began to find it very formulaic and this was the book which finally put me off her completely.
The novel has a strong and controversial plot line as all her novels do - in this case it revolves around a prisoner (Shay Bourne) on death row for the murder of a young girl and her police officer father. The twist concerns the fact that the mother of the murdered girl has another daughter who requires a heart transplant and Shay has offered to donate his heart to her after he is executed. Therefore the central question of the novel is - should the mother accept the heart transplant of a murderer in order to save her daughter?
The novel certainly has the potential to discuss a lot of complex issues in depth: the death penalty, the idea of redemption and forgiveness and the issues of organ donation, however I felt that none of these were really entered into with any great detail. The novel goes off on a bit of a tangent as Shay begins performing 'miracles' from his prison cell, raising the question of whether he can really be the 'evil' he is initially portrayed as. Personally I was put off by this as I wanted to read a serious and realistic novel and for 'magic' to then start happening halfway through was actually quite irritating and it moved the focus away from the complex moral issues of the death penalty.
However my main issue with the novel was that it seemed awfully familiar to something I had read before - The Green Mile, by Stephen King. In fact, as it progressed, the parallels were so uncanny that it began to seem like an outright copy. 'Twists' in the story matched that of the 'Green Mile' - right up to the end of the novel. I therefore felt the whole time like I knew exactly what was coming next - and it turned out I did.
It's therefore incredibly difficult to recommend this book to anyone (except perhaps somebody who really dislikes King and loves Picoult?) as in my opinion The Green Mile is *far* superior and better written. If you read this first, you'll be spoiling a far better book for yourself somewhere along the line (or an excellent film, if you preffer that sort of thing). The characterisation in King's novel is much stronger, I found it very difficult to care about Shay at all in this book, he was not at all relatable or sympathetic, too caught up in the 'miracle maker' role I suppose.
I generally just think that this sort of novel has been done so much better elsewhere - there are plenty of novels about the ethics of the death penalty which don't cross over into 'magical' territory for example. But really it is the 'copying' of another book that makes me rate this so low. Unless you really, really dislike Stephen King (and I'm sure plenty of people do!) if you haven't read the Green Mile - go read it. If you have read it - there's no need to bother reading this.
Jodi Picoult has an amazing talent. I'm not referring to her writing skills here (although she's exceptionally talented in that area too), but to her talent of creating the most horrendous moral dilemmas. I've read a few of her books and most of them revolve around dilemmas that we can only hope and pray that we never, ever come across. At face value some of them seem contrived and unrealistic. But here is where Ms Picoult's writing talent comes in - she makes the characters and situation so real that you can help feeling that this could really happen, and wondering "what would I do"?
Imagine the scenario - your husband and seven year old daughter are murdered by a carpenter that you trusted to work on your home. You are eight months pregnant at the time. The man responsible is tried, and subsequently given the death penalty - the first in the state for 69 years. Eleven years later your daughter - your only remaining family - is perilously close to death and desperately needs a heart transplant. At the same time the man responsible for killing the rest of your family is due to be killed by lethal injection. However before he dies he is looking for redemption - he wants to give your daughter his heart.
What would you do?
And here we have the basic premise of this novel. June Nealon is the mother who has to make the hardest decision of her life - lose her beloved daughter Claire, or save her by letting her take on the heart of the one person she despises most in the world, and who she never wants to be indebted to. And to make matters worse, Shay Bourne, the man responsible for killing her husband and daughter, has started to perform miracles in prison so is now being hailed by many as the Messiah. The man responsible for destroying her family is now viewed as a hero - does June really want to add to that status by letting him save her daughter? But heart donors don't come along every day so can she afford not to accept it?
As with may of Picoult's novels, this story is told from the points of view of various characters, all in first person. Firstly, we have June, who is essentially the victim. She lost her beloved husband and daughter yet has had to hold herself together for the sake of her remaining daughter, who was unborn at the time of their murders. Not surprisingly June adamantly refuses Shay's heart at first but as Claire deteriorates before her eyes, June's resolve begins to do the same.
Then we have Father Michael, a priest who becomes Shay's Spiritual Advisor. Michael's beliefs are challenged as he struggles with the fact that Shay might really be the Messiah, and when he starts to see the good in him. However Michael also harbours a deep secret from his past that could shatter his relationship with Shay, and he wrestles with his conscience as he debates whether to confess to Shay or not.
Next is Maggie, a young woman who becomes Shay's legal representative. Maggie is determined to find a way for Shay to be executed that does not involve lethal injection, so that he can donate his heart. But as she spends more time with him, she becomes more aware of the fact that regardless of the outcome, Shay is going to die. Maggie is not a religious person and finds herself somewhat hypocritical to be using the law to fight for someone's religious beliefs. Like Michael, the more she learns about Shay, the more she begins to question her religious beliefs.
Finally we have Lucius, who occupies the cell next door to Shay in the notorious I-Tier. Although not on death row, Lucius has AIDS, so is living out a life sentence of his own. We view Shay first hand through the cynical eyes of Lucius, who witnesses Shay's supposed miracles first hand. Is there a logical explanation for each occurrence, or is Shay really the Messiah?
I found the technique of using different narrators very appropriate to the story. We begin to see Shay through the eyes of those who get to know him best and, like them, we begin to develop an empathy for him. However Picoult then throws in a chapter from June's point of view and we are reminded that two people lost their lives because of him. This leads to an interesting mix of emotions that really makes you think. All characters are struggling with varying moral dilemmas and issues in their lives, yet Shay manages to have a profound effect on each of them, in very different ways.
Having Father Michael as a narrator helps with the religious slant, as does the fact that Maggie's father is a Rabbi. Although not a religious person, I loved this part of the story as it throws up so many questions and really made me think. Shay is an intriguing and interesting character and I felt a mixture of emotions towards him. To start with, I despised him for what he had done but the more I learned about him, I was surprised to find that I really felt for him. Picoult has painted him as so real and so human that it's impossible not to feel for him.
The ending of the book is fitting and like the rest of the book, leaves you wondering just who Shay Bourne really was. I won't say whether or not he gets to donate his heart to Claire but it is clear that he has left a lasting effect on her life, not just because he killed her father and sister.
Overall I found this an interesting and engaging book that raised many issues about faith, life, death and right and wrong. I found myself thinking about it for a couple of days afterwards as I almost felt that it was real. I view this as one of Picoult's best and if you like any of her other work I would highly recommend this one.
Jodi Picoult is famous for posing difficult questions and introducing moral dilemmas in her works. Her books are always thought-provoking with turnings where everything starts to seem straightforward and totally unexpected endings. This is no different with 'Change of Heart' which was published in 2008.
June Nealon lost almost everything she loved. Her beloved husband and 8-year-old daughter were killed by a mentally ill man. He is now sentenced to death as the first death row prisoner in 58 years in New Hampshire.
I would imagine that nothing else should happen to the woman who suffered so much in her life already. However, she now fights for the life of her second daughter, Claire who needs a heart transplant. June is desperate to help her beloved one, but she struggles to find a donor. Somehow Shay finds out about it and he wants to donate his own heart. But will June accept it? Will she be able to give her daughter the heart of a murderer? Or will she prefer to live with the fact that she wasn't able to help her daughter?
'Change of Heart' shows this problem from different points of views: June's herself, Lucius's who is a fellow prisoner with Shay and suffers from AIDS and father Michael who now is a very devoted and it seems to me a good priest. Surprisingly, he was amongst the people who decided to sentece Shay to death. All this characters are very different and it is interesting to look at this moral dilemma from totally various points of views resulting from different backgrounds and situations.
Even though this book tackles problems such as death sentence and organ donation, I personally don't think is Picoult's best work. I normally cannot put her books down but this one seemed boring at times (especially some of Father Michael's or Lucius's testimonies). 'Change of Heart' made me feel torn between what I thought was right and what they characters thought was right. It is still worth reading (after all, it's Picoult!) but in my opinion, she wrote better books.
Jodi Picoult has a well established formula for writing best selling books. First pick an ethical dilemma and the more controversy the story creates the better, secondly tell the story from several points of view, chuck in a love story and a couple of plot twists for good measure and the books will fly off the shelves. Change of Heart follows this same tired old formula and just like the rest of Picoult's books reached the top of the bestseller list.
Shay Bourne is on death row for the double murder of cute little Elizabeth Nealson and her brave police officer stepfather Kurt, Elizabeth's underwear was found in Shay's pocket at the crime scene and it is believed that her stepfather died protecting her from abuse. Fast forward twelve years and the date of Shay's execution is drawing closer and he wishes to donate his heart after his death to Elizabeth's little sister Claire who just coincidently needs a transplant to survive. Maggie Bloom is a lawyer with the ACLU who takes the case on arguing that Shay needs to donate his heart as part of his first amendment right to practice his religion. Will Shay be allowed to donate his heart and how will Claire and her mother react when they find out that the heart that Claire needs to survive comes from the monster who killed her sister and father?
The story throws up loads of ethical dilemmas namely whether the death penalty should be used, whether somebody can ever make up for wrongs they have done during their life and whether or not the character of the organ donor is somehow passed on the recipient. The book is clearly against the death penalty and Picoult makes an attempt at exploring both Christianity and Judaism throughout the story. Many of the arguments about religion were very basic, the old chestnut about religion being bad because it causes wars pops up for example but I did enjoy the part of the book that talked about the Gnostic gospels and how these were overlooked in favour of the Bible we know today. The problem with the story was that it was so far fetched at times that it was completely unbelievable and impossible to relate to, examples of this are the ways in which the characters lives intercept and the fact that Shay Bourne seems able to perform miracles that even have the priest wondering if he is the second coming of Christ and the fact that Picoult kept trying to show parallels between Shay and Jesus' lives.
As usual Picoult tells the story from several points of view. Maggie Bloom is the UCLA lawyer fighting Shay's corner and she is a bit of a Bridget Jones style lonely career woman. Michael is the priest who acts as spiritual advisor to Shay and of course he is not any old priest but a trendy motorbike riding guy with a dark secret in his own past. June is the grieving wife and mother of Shay's victims and also the mother of the little girl needing a transplant, she is bitter and lonely since Shay destroyed her family and has still not moved on from the murders. Lucius is the most interesting character, an HIV positive prisoner who lives on the same tier of the prison as Shay Bourne who talks about prison life. I found it interesting that Shay was not given his own voice in the book but we learned about him through all of the other characters eyes only. Having said that, the characters were all a bit one dimensional and I never fully warmed to any of them except Lucius.
I've got a bit of a love/hate relationship with Jodi Picoult books, I've read several so far and while the books are a bit formulaic they are generally gripping reads. Change of Heart is my least favourite Picoult book, it seems that by churning out a couple of books a year then the storytelling is getting a bit tired and clichéd. This was not a book that had me gripped, in fact there were several times that I nearly gave up on reading it but ended up ploughing through to the end determined not to give up even though I had guessed right from the beginning what the outcome would be. True, there were a couple of twists in the tale but even these were getting tired, the twist in this book being almost identical to the one in her book Salem Falls! I think I'm going to give Jodi Picoult a wide berth for a while as there are so many good writers to discover out there and I don't want to waste my time reading the same tired old formula over and over again.
Shay Bourne is an inmate on I-Tier in high security prison facing execution by lethal injection, for the double murder of 7 year old Elizabeth Nealon and her step father, Police Officer Kurt Nealon.
The wife and mother of the victims 11 years later is faced with losing her 11 year old daughter Claire who is in desperate need of a life saving heart transplant.
With Shays execution imminent he hears that Claire needs the heart transplant and is convinced he must be the donor in order to 'make things right' The only problem here is that the chemicals in the lethal injection would damage the heart and make it unsuitable for transplant. A legal battle follows to try to convince the courts to let Shay die by hanging which would mean the transplant could go ahead.
This isn't where the battle ends. June Nealon, Claires mother, still understandably bitter after losing her husband and daughter, doesn't want to accept Shays heart and struggles with her conscience over whether or not to take it.
An extra side story is that from the moment Shay arrives on I-Tier, strange things start to happen, miracles that have many people believe Shay is the new messiah. This causes much publicity for the court case and keeps the reader guessing till the very end!
The story is told from the different viewpoints of the following main characters.
Lucius is another inmate on I-Tier convicted of killing his boyfriend. He is an AIDs sufferer who forms a companionship with Shay.
Maggie, Shays lawyer, has self esteem issues but is a very strong female character who fights for peoples rights and freedoms.
Michael is a Catholic priest and Shays spiritual advisor who interestingly started the story by being on the Jury that initially sentenced Shay to death.
June is the mother of Elizabeth and Claire Nealon and the wife of Kurt. She is torn apart after the murderers but forces herself to carry on for the sake of her unborn baby (Claire)
The format of the book if an interesting one and one that Picoult uses frequently. It helps the reader connect with each individual character more as we are seeing the world through their eyes. It forces the reader to imagine how we would deal with the situations they are facing.
The character Ian Fletcher, one of the main characters in 'Keeping Faith' (who I love!) makes a brief reappearance in this book. Although it isn't necessary to read the books in order I'd suggest Keeping Faith first if you want to read it so this book doesn't spoil any part of the other one!
All in all this is a very good read, made all the better for some interesting twists towards. I found it absolutely gripping from the first few pages. Impossible to put down and was read late into the nights!
I have read most of Picoults novels and I would definitely put this right up there with her best. It's a must read for any fan and will have any new readers hooked on Jodi Picoult!
If you're thinking of reading this book go for it, don't want to hype it up too much but in my eyes it's a gem and you won't be disappointed!
Change of heart is one of Jodi Picoults more recent books (2008), many of which i have also read and have loved! This book is another fantastic read by the much talented Author.
The story is a little complex at first to get your head around, but once you start reading the book it become much easier to follow.
Shay Bourne is sentenced to death for the killing of a police-man and his step-daughter. After 11 years Shay see's a paper article about a young girl in need of a heart transplant. The policeman's wife and remaining daught are the ones in need of the heart. The sotry tell of a mothers agonizing choice to use the heart of the man who killed her daughter to save her remaining daughter as well as the court room battle for Shay to be killed in a way in which his heart can be donated.
The story sounds complex but it is worth the read as it challenges many heard hitting emotionaly choices to be made in order to save the life of a child. The book covers some touchy areas including murder and rape but is such an addictive read, i read the whole book in a matter of days!
The story flows perfectly and all the characters come to life through Jodi Picoult's beautiful writing.
10/10 and a definite must read, espeicaly for Jodi Picoult fans!
"Faith is like Electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light."
Excuse the philosophising, but if empty pontificating has got a hold of me, it's this book that's to blame. If Faith is indeed like Electricity, then so, I think, is a good novel - we don't necessarily need or want to see the workings too clearly, we want to see and feel the product. That is, we want to be able to immerse ourselves in the story and let the author take control, without feeling like we're being pulled roughly through a narrative littered with clunky symbolism, beaten repeatedly over the head with leaden metaphors.
I should know better than to expect good authors and famous authors to be one and the same thing (see Coelho, Paulo), but I was surprised to find Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart to be such an irritating, contrived, absurdly derivative book. A tale of faith, parental duty and the morality of retribution, the novel is set in and around New Hampshire State Prison, specifically Death Row.
There, inmate Shay Bourne awaits his upcoming execution for the murder of a young girl and her step-father some eleven years earlier. Crossing paths and narratives with Shay (for this is a novel told from a number of perspectives) are lawyer Maggie Bloom and priest Michael Wright, the latter assigned to be the prisoner's "spiritual advisor".
Bourne's dying wish is an unusual one. Claire Nealon, the sister of the murdered girl is suffering from a soon-to-be-fatal heart defect, and is in need of a new one, conveniently enough for us (though admittedly, not for her mother, who having already lost two husbands and a daughter must be getting used to family members buying the farm). Shay, of course, isn't going to need his organ for much longer, and is keen to give the girl the heart when he is executed.
This, with all its legal and moral consequences is one thrust of the book. The second is a more spiritual one - for a spate of apparent miracles soon begin to occur on Death Row, with Shay seemingly the architect. In something of a leap of logic, not to mention faith, those around Bourne start to wonder whether there might be a divine presence amongst them - but would He really return to us in the body of a murderer?
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
(These kinds of little quotes are scattered throughout the book. They don't really say an awful lot in relation to the plot that hasn't been rammed down our throats five times previously, but I guess Picoult felt they added a bit of worldy-wiseness to the novel. And they look quite pretty.)
So - man condemned to death for child-murder may or may not be guilty, performs an assortment of divine miracles and profoundly changes the lives of those around him. Jodi Picoult must have enjoyed The Green Mile as much as I did. Or maybe she's just an all-round fan of Stephen King books-become-films - after all, one of the main characters on Death Row is named Lucius Dufresne, sharing a surname with Andy of The Shawshank Redemption. Of course, this is just a name; there's nothing wrong with a nod to one's influences here and there. The similarities with The Green Mile, however, are less easy to understand - on top of the distinctly familiar premise, there are a number of scenes in the book which are near-identical to those in King's book and film. Less subtle allusions than direct rip-offs, it's hard to imagine the author thought no-one would notice.
In truth, it does nothing for the book to borrow these aspects, as it pales in comparison in every way - where the characters in The Green Mile are wonderful, believable figures, Picoult's are curious, uneasy concoctions. So often what is said about the characters just doesn't tally with what they say and do. The central character, for instance, Shay Bourne, is supposed to be somewhat simple, of limited intelligence and verbosity - a slightly childlike figure with little education. The reality on the page is very different though - he is an eloquent speaker who is quite at home discussing abstract concepts like religion and morality with others. It's as if Picoult wasn't willing to compromise her big ideas and consequential themes for the sake of character integrity - unfortunately, though this allows her get her ideas across, it makes for unconvincing caricatures as key players.
Amongst the many failings of this novel is its simple over-ambition in trying to balance the great dual focuses of religion and the American prison system. The Green Mile managed to do this because its characters were strong and well-rendered enough to fill in the blanks where things were left unsaid. Picoult's characters, however, are in no way as well-defined, and there are no blanks - nothing is left implicit, and the whole thing drowns in its wordy hubris.
There are some interesting ideas in Change of Heart, and a decent pace which prompts us to keep reading. However, Picoult struggles to bring it neatly together and the book fizzles out into a muddled, frustrating conclusion which doesn't really answer any of the questions raised along the way.
This being the first of Picoult's books that I've read, I'm prepared to accept that it might not be representative of the extent of her abilities. That said, the positive reception her fans have given this book suggests it probably is - but for me (based solely on what I've read here), the talents she possesses amount to little more than being able to take other people's genuinely thought-provoking work and render it impotent and sugar-sweet.
If I had to select one person as my favourite author then I'd say it would currently be a close call between Philippa Gregory and Jodi Picoult. Although their books are far from similar in terms of content, Gregory tends to write historical novels from around the era of Henry VIII while Picoult prefers more modern novels, they both write equally addictive and enjoyable novels. I've just finished Jodi Picoult's latest offering which was entitled Change of Heart and I was far from disappointed by it!
Jodi Picoult is an American author who has had fifteen books published to date; Change of Heart is her most recent offering although her sixteenth novel will be released in April 2009. Her books all share several common themes in that they focus on family, heartbreak and some sort of court drama as well which is often the result of a morally questionable crime. Her first novel was published back in 1992 and she shows no signs of stopping writing anytime soon, thank goodness!
The novel focuses on Shay Bourne who is the first death row prisoner in the state of New Hampshire for sixty nine years. He has been imprisoned for the past eleven years following a court case where he was found guilty of murdering Kurt Nealon, a local police man, and Elizabeth Nealon, his young step daughter after sexually assaulting her. He is soon to be executed within a matter of weeks yet he has one last request, to donate his heart to a dying girl, the daughter of Kurt Nealon and the half sister of Elizabeth Nealon.
Bourne feels this is the only way to redeem his sins on earth but with the chosen execution method, lethal injection, this would be impossible. Maggie, an ACLU lawyer decides to try to help Shay by going to court and saying that he should be allowed to die in line with his religious beliefs which involve being able to donate his organs. The two major topics facing Shay are not only to convince a court to allow him to die by hanging him, but also to convince June Nealon to accept the heart for her dying daughter Claire.
Michael, a young priest who also had the misfortune of acting on Shay's murder trial, is given the job of being his spiritual advisor during his last weeks in prison. When Shay is transported to the prison where he will be hung, just weeks before his execution is scheduled to take place, he begins to perform what can only be described as miracles, something that makes Michael question everything he has ever believed in and results in half the population still hating him and half thinking he is some sort of messiah.
The story is told from the viewpoint of four characters which makes each chapter different in a sense and allows us to see more than we would normally if it were told from the viewpoint of only one character. First we have June Nealon who was Kurt Nealon's wife and Elizabeth Nealon's mother before she welcomed Shay into her house as a workman and he stole them away from her. She is currently caring for her daughter, Claire Nealon, who has a damaging heart condition meaning that she will die without a transplant.
Michael is a young man who has chosen to enter the priesthood following his days as a student. We first meet him when he was serving on the jury given the job of determining the sentence on Shay Bourne following his crimes. Eleven years later he has completed his studies and is a priest at a local church, he takes up the position of Shay Bourne's spiritual advisor out of some need to redeem himself for finding Shay guilty all those years ago. Shay makes him question everything he believes in when the miracles start to occur.
Lucius is another prisoner on I tier which is where Shay is taken before his execution. Lucius was imprisoned for killing his gay lover when he found out he was having an affair and is suffering from Aids. When Shay is placed in the cell next to Lucius a friendship of sorts starts between the two men. Lucius seems to believe in the miracles Shay is performing and indeed when he appears cured from his illnesses he believes this is due to Shay's powers. He offers an insight into prison life which is fascinating to read about too.
Maggie is an attorney working for the ACLU and desperately battling against the death penalty and all the things it stands for. She comes across Shay's case and decides to investigate it further in case it can be of use to her cause. She sets herself the task of convincing a judge that Shay should be allowed to die in the way he wants so he can donate his organs, in line with his religious beliefs. She is a somewhat lonely woman who has a very negative body image and feels she has never lived up to her mother's hopes.
I was so excited when I came across this book in Tesco on a special promotion of two for £7 and couldn't wait to read it after buying it. I was far from disappointed and although I want to say this is her best novel to date I can't quite bring myself to say it as the majority of those that I've read have been amazing. This book was truly emotive, I felt anger, I felt empathy, I felt sympathy and I even cried in one bit. Now very few books have the ability to make me cry making me think this really is something special.
The novel is just over four hundred and fifty pages in length which may seem long but in reality I found myself reading around fifty pages a night. The majority of the novel takes place within a matter of weeks and the pace of the book is kept quite quickly, some events will be discussed in detail from a number of perspectives while on other occasions a few days seem to pass without mention. Not at any point did I think the book was too long or contemplate giving up in it, it was utterly addictive throughout.
I really like the way that Picoult uses a number of narrators in her novels. This really gives an added depth as the same event or occurrences can be described from a number of different perspectives, making the reader feel even more involved with what is going on. I did wish at times that one of the narrators was Shay Bourne himself rather than the four people surrounding him, but I suppose there would have been very little need for any other narrator and it may have revealed too much from his perspective.
The characters really had a chance to develop and evolve throughout the novel and they come to reveal and understand things about themselves that they probably wouldn't have done without meeting Shay Bourne himself. They allow the reader an insight into their opinions and views, as well as their inner soul and thoughts. June Nealon probably goes on the most complicated and trying journey of them all, her strength is remarkable throughout the novel and the sympathy I felt for her was real.
The subject content as always was quite controversial; a convicted murderer wants to be executed to allow him to donate his organs. Even more controversial, he wants to donate them to the family of his victims. There's no straight cut right or wrong decision to be made here and I'm not going to spoil it by telling you which way the decision goes, suffice to say that there is a debate which you can really get your teeth into. It's clear that it's a critical topic and one that is very often brushed under the carpet.
Shay Bourne, the focus of the entire story, is a very interesting character and one that I just couldn't quite make my mind up throughout. He is depicted at the start as a young man who has a difficulty in grasping language and putting together simple sentences. I wanted to hate him from the start, when I read of the crimes he'd committed and how he'd been found guilty my initial reaction was hatred. Yet this book made me realise that it's not always that black and white, by the end I found myself empathising with him.
I did feel a strange ability to relate to all the characters despite some of them being completly different to anyone I've ever met before. Shay Bourne in particular who was found guilty of murdering a child and a man was someone I thought I'd hate throughout the novel. However I actually felt myself feeling sorry for him at times, it's remarkable how you can assume what someone is going to be like from the picture painted of them by someone else, yet when he was actually the narrotor in the novel he was completly different to what I expected.
The only negative point I'd like to make is that religion was discussed and questioned throughout this novel. Now the religious parts at times were quite detailed and did go over a little over my head, it wasn't that they were boring as such but more that I didn't really have any interest in them. I think the idea of religion was vital to the story as Maggie was trying to prove that it was against Shay's religious beliefs to be executed by lethal injection, yet I'm not sure whether the large amount of religious talk was necessary.
Picoult has once again created a very powerful and moving book that had me hooked from the very first chapter and will no doubt replay on my mind during the coming weeks and months. It looked at a really controversial issue in the death penalty and although it remained objective about it, there were times when it did lead me to question my views towards it. This book had me addicted and if I could have I'd probably have read it all in just one or two sittings, it was that impossible to put down!
Thanks for reading.
I have only discovered Jodi Picoult in the last couple of years. I first heard of her by reading a review about one of her books so decided I would give her a go. I've now read five and have enjoyed them all thoroughly. I found her writing very strange but yet refreshing at first, but have since grown used to her style. She usually writes from different character viewpoints, heading each chapter with the name of a character. The book I am reviewing is Change Of Heart and it uses this same format.
~*~The outline of the story~*~
When June Nealon's 7 year old daughter and police officer husband are shot dead, she is left heart broken. But she is also pregnant and finds the strength to carry on. She rebuilds her life for the sake of her 2nd daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth then develops a heart problem and eventually needs a donor to survive. June is faced with the decision, do I let my child die or do I accept the heart from the man who murdered my husband and daughter? Jodi Picoults books always seem to involve making tough choices. You always find yourself thinking what would I do?
When I read the background to the book, I expected this to be the crux of the story. There is however a lot more to the book than this. The murderer in question is Shay Bourne. He has been on death row for 11 years and resigned himself to his death. He wants to give his heart to Elizabeth as he feels this will repay what hes taken away. However if he is given the lethal injection then he will be unable to donate. So a court battle begins for him to be given the right to die by an alternative method. Bournes lawyer is Maggie and she uses religious faith as her defence.
As a result the book focuses very heavily on the death penalty and the writer has researched the book well. I never knew it had so much to it. The other main focal point is religion, looking at the differences between recognised religions as well as raising the question, what defines a religion or faith? Who decides what we should or shouldn't believe? Another of the big characters is Father Michael, a priest who acts as Shays spiritual advisor.
The stories 'narrators' are June, Michael, Maggie and Lucius. Lucius is another inmate at the prison in the cell next to Shay. We don't get to hear any of the story from Shay himself. All the characters were well explored. I particularly liked Maggie the lawyer as she had a vulnerability to her. Even though she had a successful career she still felt the need to live up to her mums expectations of her.
Michaels character is two fold to the story and he has his own agenda for helping Shay. From the point of view of June we got to see what it felt like to be a victim of crime and how you want retribution for it. Her personality as such was not explored as thoroughly as it could have been.The narratives by Lucius were my favourite parts of the book. He was a very real character. He expalined prison life in detail and in a matter of fact manner.
~*~Did I enjoy it?~*~
I'm not a very religious person myself and if I had known the amount of religious reference involved I would probably have been put off. However I found the book to be an intriguing read. It really made you think about how differently people can see the same things and also how we judge and define people. I found myself wanting to read more of the book whenever I had a spare minute. The only let down was that I kind of guessed some of the story reveal before it actually got revealed and athough I was happy to be right I also felt it was a little too transparent. However, the ending to the book was fantastic and left me thinking for days. I believe this is what the author tries to achieve with her writing.
The majority of the books I read are chick lit. If you want to read something with a bit more depth and to give you food for thought then I thoroughly recommend Jodi Picoult as an author. Of the books I have read so far this is one of the most enjoyable.
Available new on Amazon from £3.86 or as little as 54p used.
Jodi Picoult is one of the best known and best selling authors out there so I am surprised that I have not read one of her novels prior to reading this one. I know a few people that love her books so I decided to give her a go and I was certainly not disappointed! Jodi has one many awards for her writing and has written many books, I just need to find the time to read them all now!
Change of Heart focuses on the story of a death row inmate called Shay Bourne who has been convicted of a double murder of a police officer and the officers step daughter. June Nealon is the mother of the murdered child and widow to the officer. June has another daughter fathered by the dead police officer who has a heart defect and urgently needs a heart transplant to prolong her life. The irony in the story is that Shay wants to donate his heart to the daughter Claire when he is executed.
The first thing that stood out to me in this book was the first person writing. Each chapter of the book is written in the first person by each of the main characters. This really did take a bit of getting used to start of with and I found myself flicking back to each character to try and keep up with what was going on and who was saying what! This did annoy me to start off with but the characters are portrayed so well that you soon immerse yourself in to their lives and enjoy the different perspectives that this writing gives you on the characters. All the characters are very strong in this book and you almost start to think what they are thinking. Although the characters are strong they are also very different. You have the character of Shay, a double murderer who seems to perform miracles and be a very gentle man. You go from this to the gentle Catholic priest Michael who is his spiritual advisor and June the distraught widow who only now has her dying daughter left in the world. Each character is very emotional and the author isn't afraid to express their feelings in a very detailed way.
The only main character that doesn't speak in the first person is Shay himself. Most of his actions are told by his fellow inmate Lucius. Lucius is an Aids sufferer but when Shay moves in to the ward his symptoms seem to miraculously disappear! Along with other so called miracles Shay causes uproar with the press and public believing that he is some kind of messiah! I must admit that one scene in particular was a virtual copy of one in the Green Mile! Not wanting to give too much of the plot away I will just say that it involved a death to life conversion! I was worried at this point in the book that it was going to be too similar to the Green Mile but was pleased that it took on it's own identity although similarities were still there throughout.
The story itself is a very controversial one and doing a bit of research into the author it seems that most of her books are like this! The debate that surrounds the death penalty is paramount in this book. The fact that the state in which Shay is to be executed has to build an execution chamber especially causes uproar among the locals. The other problem is that Shay is to be executed by lethal injection which would mean his heart would be worthless and not suitable for transplant. His lawyer fights his case in court for an alternative method of execution so his heart can be saved and donated to this young girl. The main basis for the argument is religion and many arguments take place as Shay is not religious yet he seems to know some ancient quotes from testaments not well known! Is he really a gift from God or just a plain and simple murderer? Will June accept the heart for her daughter from a man that killed her husband and daughter?!
The research that Jodi Picoult has pit into this book is quite astounding, it must have taken her ages! At the back of the book there are a couple of questions answered by Jodi and one of them is relating to the research. Jodi tells how she visited death row in Arizona to get a greater understanding of how the inmates lived and went about their every day lives. Another huge part of research was to do with religion. In the book Shay has a spiritual advisor and there are many religious debates throughout the book. The dedicated research really pays off in this book and I actually came away from reading it feeling that I had learnt something! I remember watching a show on TV a few days after reading this book about Americas most dangerous prisons. The book must have imprinted a vivid memory in my mind about the prison as I watched the TV show and though it was just like that and could almost se Shay sat in his cell!
In summary I would say this is one of the best books that I have read in a long time! To be fair I would like to have given it four and a half stars rather than five due to the cringe worthy Green Mile moment and the difficulty in getting to grips with all the characters at the start of the book. I do not feel that it deserves four stars though as once I got into the book I really couldn't put it down! There is a good twist at the end of the book which I like and the author keeps you guessing right up until the last minute! I am definitely going to be reading some more of Jodi's books now! Where do I start, the list is so long!