Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

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Jodi Picoult has become known for writing books on controversial issues, and Change of Heart is no exception. This time, she brilliantly builds her story around Shay Bourne, who is convicted of murdering a police officer and a young girl, and is sentenced to death. Picoult tears back the curtains of mystery and secrecy that surround the death penalty, and intertwines this major topic with the equally powerful topic of religion, exploring what religion means to different people and raising the question of whether it brings us closer together or tears us apart.

The book takes place in New Hampshire, where Shay Bourne is the first death row prisoner the state has had in 69 years. It is told, not from Shay's point of view, but from four different viewpoints: Father Michael, the Catholic Priest who becomes Shay's spiritual advisor while he waits for his execution in jail; Maggie Bloom, a lawyer that decides to take Shay's case, who is atheist but who was raised Jewish and whose father is a Rabbi; Lucius, the prisoner whose cell is right next to Shay's, and June Nealon, whose husband and youngest daughter were the officer and the girl that Shay was convicted of murdering. The viewpoints offered by these diverse characters, who also have very different religious beliefs, shed light on various angles of Shay Bourne and his execution. The voice and quirkiness of each of them leaves a lasting, haunting memory of both them and of Shay.

After Shay is convicted, he has a last request; to donate his heart to Claire Nealon, June's daughter ' now her only child ' who desperately needs a heart transplant. Shay believes that giving her his heart is the only way he can atone for his past. However, since he is sentenced to death by lethal injection, which would stop his heart, this is medically impossible, unless an alternate form of execution can be petitioned. The possibility of a heart that can save her daughter's life faces June Nealon, who is filled with grief, anger and vengeance, and who has already lost so much, with a heart wrenching decision. As Picoult puts it, "Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish?" Picoult crafts this complex plot beautifully. Her writing style is bold and unafraid, and she pays attention to detail, taking time to make her characters and the stories they tell relatable and real.

It is apparent by the topics that she chooses and the way that she writes that Jodi Picoult has a purpose to her writing, which is to expand people's views, to offer them the grey on something that seems to be black and white. She drags skeletons out of the closet and displays them courageously, yet tastefully in full view. She does not hold back, giving the gory details of the truth, making her reader cringe as they experience her characters' pain. She wants to raise questions, uncover truths, shift perspectives and shake beliefs, and in Change of Heart she does all of the above. She leaves questions unanswered, giving the reader a chance to reach their own conclusions, leaving a feeling of connection with the characters that lingers long after the last page is turned.





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