Saturday, May 14, 2011


I love reading and I love writing, so I decided to start a blog about books and such!

Just last night I finished "Change of Heart" by Jodi Picoult. She's one of my favorite authors; her novels are always so compelling and thought-provoking and relevant. "Change of Heart" has a slew of characters and the book -- very frequently at first -- jumps back and forth between their narratives. It took me awhile to get all the players straight in my mind. Once I got the gist of things, though, the plot took off and I was hooked!

The story deals with June Nealon, a mom whose adolescent daughter Claire desperately needs a heart transplant. But June is haunted by her past -- her first husband was killed in a car accident, and her second husband and daughter were murdered by a young man June had hired to do some work on the house. The only thing that kept her going after Kurt and Elizabeth were ripped away from her was the fact that she was pregnant with Claire.

The murderer, Shay Boure, is now about to executed after an 11-year wait on death row. And his last wish is to give his heart to Claire Nealon. Of course, this process is not as straightforward as it sounds and a legal battle ensues. Shay is ultimately the main character in the book, but we never actually hear the story from his point of view. Instead, we see through the eyes of June, Maggie Bloom (Shay's ACLU lawyer), Michael (his "spiritual advisor") and Lucius (his next-cell neighbor).

Religion plays an important role in the novel. While on death row, Shay appears to begin performing miracles; hundreds of people flock to the prison, believing he is the messiah. Further, Shay's lawyer uses religion as the cornerstone of her argument to allow Shay to donate his heart to Claire post-execution. Every character's story involves religion in some aspect, and Picoult brings up some interesting (and possibly controversial) points on the topic.

At one point in the novel is a very vivid depiction of death by lethal injection; at the end of the book Picoult writes that she got that info while doing research at an actual death row at an actual prison. While the components in the description are nothing I hadn't heard before, the visceral writing gave me a mental picture that will probably stay with me forever. The book forces readers to evaluate their position on the death penalty as the plot develops; I have mixed feelings on the topic, and I wonder how Picoult feels. I came away thinking that she is moderately against the death penalty, but it's hard to tell because she presents all sides of the issue.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, despite the fact that it left me feeling a bit depressed. After reading several of Picoult's books, though, I guess that's pretty much the norm. It was a page-turner with unique and well-developed characters, and an intriguing plot.

I give "Change of Heart" a score of 4/5.

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