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.)
"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
"[H]ands down Jodi Picoult's most thought-provoking novel to date. You may not believe in the death penalty, or you may scoff at religion, but you cannot deny the astonishing power this story holds." Bookreporter.com
"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.
Reading Group Guide
In her fifteen novels, Jodi Picoult delves deep into the most troubling contemporary social issues, writing fiction that the New York Daily News calls "intelligent, often moving, and always ripe for book club discussion." In Change of Heart, she examines a convicted killer on death row, Shay Bourne, who has taken the lives of Officer Kurt Nealon and his young stepdaughter, Elizabeth. When Shay discovers that his victim's living daughter, Claire, is desperately in need of a heart transplant, he sees his only chance for salvation. Standing in his way, however, is the law and a mother filled with anger and revenge. On his side are some unexpected allies -- a Catholic priest who had a hand in Shay's sentencing; an ambitious attorney who, despite her deep convictions against capital punishment is determined to see Shay die on his own terms; and a community who sees something in Shay that gives them hope. Picoult expertly intersects matters of the state and matters of the spirit to probe questions about the meaning of salvation and who has the power to determine the fate of the soul.
1. The author uses several famous quotations from some of the greatest thinkers in history, including Lewis Carroll, Voltaire, Woody Allen, Mother Teresa, Mark Twain, the Dalai Lama, Bono, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Albert Einstein. What effect do these philosophical tidbits have on the telling of this story? Which one resonated most with you?
2. Discuss the theme of belief in this novel. What does Shay believe, and who believes in him? Apply this same question to Maggie, Michael, and June. Did this story call any of their beliefs into question? Which ones?
3. When Shay is moved to the I-tier, some very strange things start happening -- water turns to wine, Calloway's pet robin is brought back to life, a tiny piece of gum becomes enough for all to share. Some call these miracles while others call them hijinks. What do you make of these incidents? Were you convinced that Shay had divine powers, and if so, at what point did you make that conclusion?
4. Michael tells Maggie that "there's a big difference between mercy and salvation" (142). What is that difference? Which characters are pursuing mercy and which are pursuing salvation? Which, do you think, is granted in the end for each of the main characters?
5. Having lost a daughter and two husbands, June's life is fraught with grief. How do you see that grief shaping her character and informing the choices that she makes? Do you think she makes choices in order to reconcile the past or in hopes of a better future?
6. How do the three religions referenced in this book (Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism) imagine the presence or reappearance of the divine? Compare Michael's vision on p. 71 with Rabbi Bloom's explanation of the Jewish Midrash on p. 96 and Shay's depiction of heaven on p.106.
7. Consider the passage on p.165 where Maggie thinks "the penitentiary [Shay] was referring to was his own body." In what ways are some of the other characters in this book (Claire, Maggie, Lucius) imprisoned by their bodies?
8. Discuss June's questions on p. 184: "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?" How do the characters answer this question?
9. June thinks that if Claire accepted a heart transplant from Shay Bourne and had to absorb the emotional pain of her father's and sister's murders, it would be "better to have no heart at all" (238). This statement eerily echoes Shay's own statement to June that her first daughter, Elizabeth, "was better off dead." How do you feel about the adults in this novel making such grave choices over the life of a child? Do you feel like they are being protective or presumptuous?
10. Why do you think Shay never puts up a real fight for his innocence? Do you believe he is resigned to his fate or is an active participant in choosing it? Has he made the ultimate sacrifice or is he just trying to make the most out of circumstances beyond his control?
11. Does Change of Heart have a hero? If so, who is it?
12. In Change of Heart, religion seems at times to bring characters together and at others to drive a wedge between them. Ultimately, do you think religion unites people or divides them?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. Go to deathpenaltyinfo.org/state to see what your state laws are regarding capital punishment. Discuss the statistics you find there.
2. You can write letters to inmates on death row by contacting Death Row Support Project, PO Box 600, Liberty Mills, IN 46946.
3. Save the money you'd normally spend on wine or food at your next book club meeting. Instead, help sick kids like Claire by donating to a children's hospital or research fund.
4. Watch a video and listen to Jodi Picoult talk about Change of Heart at www.jodipicoult.com/heartvideo.