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Change of Heartby Jodi Picoult
Synopses & Reviews
The acclaimed #1 New York Times bestselling author presents a spellbinding tale of a mother's tragic loss and one man's last chance at gaining salvation.
Can we save ourselves, or do we rely on others to do it? Is what we believe always the truth?
One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.
For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June's eleven-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.
Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish?
Once again, Jodi Picoult mesmerizes and enthralls readers with this story of redemption, justice, and love.
"Picoult bangs out another ripped-from-the-zeitgeist winner, this time examining a condemned inmate's desire to be an organ donor. Freelance carpenter Shay Bourne was sentenced to death for killing a little girl, Elizabeth Nealon, and her cop stepfather. Eleven years after the murders, Elizabeth's sister, Claire, needs a heart transplant, and Shay volunteers, which complicates the state's execution plans. Meanwhile, death row has been the scene of some odd events since Shay's arrival — an AIDS victim goes into remission, an inmate's pet bird dies and is brought back to life, wine flows from the water faucets. The author brings other compelling elements to an already complex plot line: the priest who serves as Shay's spiritual adviser was on the jury that sentenced him; Shay's ACLU representative, Maggie Bloom, balances her professional moxie with her negative self-image and difficult relationship with her mother. Picoult moves the story along with lively debates about prisoner rights and religion, while plumbing the depths of mother-daughter relationships and examining the literal and metaphorical meanings of having heart. The point-of-view switches are abrupt, but this is a small flaw in an impressive book. 1,000,000-million copy first printing." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Shay Bourne is a prisoner on death row, convicted of killing a little girl and her stepfather. With the help of an ACLU lawyer and a sympathetic priest, Shay spends his last weeks petitioning to donate his heart to the sister of the girl he murdered, an 11-year-old who suffers from pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy. At the same time, prison officers and inmates claim that Shay has been performing miracles,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) turning tap water into wine, curing a fellow prisoner of AIDS, resuscitating a dead bird. Crowds of faithful citizens gather outside the prison, some noisily insisting that Shay, a 33-year-old former carpenter, is the Messiah, others denouncing the notion. Shay's execution, by lethal injection, will be the first to take place in New Hampshire in 69 years. Will it be an act of justice for a murderer, or a cruel and unusual punishment for a holy man? Will Shay's offer of his heart save a little girl and thereby redeem his crimes? Yes, folks, if you haven't already guessed, we've landed squarely in the middle of a Jodi Picoult novel, her 15th book in about as many years. All the familiar elements of the stupendously popular author's protocol are here: a piling on of Big Issues (the ethics of organ donation and the death penalty, plus prisoners' rights, and some lively religious conflicts), a rotating cast of narrators, intimate tours inside prisons and hospitals and a lengthy courtroom showdown. Picoult, as her legions of fans know, is a painstaking researcher and a stickler for airtight plots. She travels often from her New Hampshire home to explore her books' locales (Alaska in 'The Tenth Circle,' Amish country in 'Plain Truth'), and routinely consults all kinds of experts — lawyers, doctors, prison wardens, theologians — to help add verisimilitude to her hot-button modern morality tales. I admire Picoult for being so reliably and unapologetically what she is: a hardworking, deft and sometimes inspired formula novelist. While her methods remain consistent, though, her grueling publishing schedule more or less guarantees a range of quality. Some of her books are just not going to be as good as others. Her latest novel is a good example of how an often winning formula can go awry. Picoult's story lines are always complex, and 'Change of Heart' reaches a kind of quintessence of plot overload. Here, she requires the reader to accept that Shay Bourne's adult heart could be the perfect match for a dying young girl; that her mother might forgive the man who killed her husband and older daughter enough to entertain his offer to donate his heart; and that the laws requiring Shay to die through lethal injection might be challenged in a courtroom, since this method of execution would render his heart unusable for transplant. OK, we'll go along with this. But of course there's a lot more. It turns out that the priest who is Shay's spiritual adviser just happened to serve on the jury that convicted Shay 11 years ago and voted for capital punishment. This guilty secret causes Father Michael much anguish about death-penalty morality, particularly after he catches Shay reciting from the Gnostic Gospels (texts the near-illiterate prisoner couldn't possibly know), and he begins to wonder, along with the crowds camping outside the prison, whether Shay might indeed be the Messiah. Even at this point, the reader is still dutifully following along as each chapter concludes with a thumpingly triumphant cliffhanger that reveals more just-this-side-of-plausible details. Picoult's indulgent plotting has worked well in previous books: 'Keeping Faith,' which shares some thematic elements and also a few characters with 'Change of Heart,' was a satisfyingly excessive example. What's different about this new book is that Picoult has sacrificed her characters for the plot and its attendant ethical dilemmas. Some of those characters, the ones who take turns narrating the action, are distinguished in the book by different typefaces. At times it seems as though the font variations (a Picoult trademark) are all that's noteworthy about these people. Maggie Bloom, the ACLU lawyer who argues in court that Shay should be executed by hanging rather than by lethal injection in order to preserve his heart, is a thoroughgoing stereotype: She's fat, she's single, she's smart but hates herself, she's a disappointment to her mother, and on and on. Shay, we understand, is supposed to be something of a mystery, but most of the round-robin narrators — Father Michael, an inmate with HIV named Lucius, and Maggie — are unjustifiably sketchy. Only June Nealon, the dying girl's mother, exhibits enough nuance to seem believable. Sensational but not surprising, 'Change of Heart' manages to lose its humanity in a maelstrom of life-and-death issues." Reviewed by Donna Rifkind, who reviews regularly for The Washington Post Book World, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Picoult tackles the most complicated personal and political issues with compassion and clarity, and her fans will want this one." School Library Journal
"Turning the pages, all you'll care about is what happens next. That's the mark of pretty much every Jodi Picoult book, and it's the reason she keeps topping best-seller lists." San Antonio Express-News
"Change of Heart is an emotionally charged page-turner that reaffirms the possibility of miracles in the modern world." Charlotte Observer
"[J]ust as Picoult reaches Change of Heart's climax, her diligent research takes over, blunting all emotional impact. If only she hadn't been so show-offy about the facts! (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"Clunky prose and long-winded dissertations on comparative religion can't impede the breathless momentum of the Demon-Drop plot." Kirkus Reviews
Jodi Picoult, the bestselling author of Nineteen Minutes, presents a spellbinding tale of a mother's tragic loss and a criminal's last chance at gaining salvation.
About the Author
Jodi Picoult received an A.B. in creative writing from Princeton and a master's degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of fourteen novels, including The Tenth Circle, Vanishing Acts, and My Sister's Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association's Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. Recently, she penned several issues of Wonder Woman for DC Comics. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.
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