April 21, 2008

Book Review: Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of the most popular authors out there. Her signature style is to confront controversial issues by taking multiple perspectives and writing about each of them with equal empathy. She has amazing talent. Change of Heart is a great addition to her body of work, but I have one major complaint. For the first part of the book, this story reminded me too much of Stephen King's The Green Mile. The perspective of Lucius could almost have been taken directly from the Green Mile serial novel. After the first half of the book, the similarities ended, but to me, the similarities were a distraction.

Shay Bourne is a convicted killer on Death Row. Eleven years ago, he was convicted of killing a little girl and her stepfather. Now he is convinced that he needs to donate his heart to the murdered girl's sister, Claire Nealon, who needs a heart transplant if she's to finish out the year.

The state of New Hampshire only carries out executions by lethal injection, which won't allow for an organ transplant. But, if Shay can be executed by hanging, he can be brain dead but have a still viable heart. Enter ACLU lawyer, Maggie. She wants to help Shay donate his heart to the little girl and, if possible, strike a blow for her anti-Death penalty beliefs. Then, there's Father Michael, the Catholic priest with a secret of his own: eleven years ago, he was on the jury that sentenced Shay to death. He wants to clear his conscience and help Shay make peace with the Lord before he dies.

Everyone wants to use Shay for their own cause, but no one is prepared for how Shay will impact their life.
Shay isn't any death row prisoner. For one thing, he seems to be able to perform miracles. For another, he speaks in religious riddles. He doesn't seem violent, as opposed to the to other men in his prison tier. Father Michael wonders if their is more to Shay Bourne than earthly eyes can see. Maggie doesn't really care who Shay is, as long as he gets to die on his own terms.

This novel is thought provoking, and as is usual with a Picoult work, there are no easy answers.

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