Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

I picked up this one while I was on vacation and had finished Damage Control. I told myself I was taking a break from Picoult but the subject of this one intrigued me. I'm using it for the A to Z Challenge and the In the Pub Challenge.

This is the story of Shay Bourne who has been convicted of the murder of June Nealon's daughter and cop husband. Shay was given the death penalty by a juror which included the man, Father Michael, who is now Shay's spiritual advisor. The ACLU, and lawyer Maggie Bloom, becomes involved in the case when Shay announces that he wants to donate his heart to June Nealon's surviving daughter who is in need of a heart transplant. The story is further complicated by Father Michael's crisis of faith as he begins to believe that Shay is capable of performing miracles.

STRENGTHS OF CHANGE OF HEART: Father Michael is an interesting and complex character. As a college student, he was on the jury that sentenced Shay to death. He doesn't reveal this to Shay or Maggie until much later in the story. As Michael interacts more with Shay, he comes to doubt parts of his faith and searches for answers from outside the Catholic Church. This was the most interesting part of the story for me because Picoult created some fascinating questions about religion and how it has been organized to fit the needs of society.

Shay was also a complex character and, to Picoult's credit, she was able to make her readers like him. This was important because the reader needed to care whether Shay lived or died to fuel the death penalty debate that was the other focus of the book.

WEAKNESSES OF CHANGE OF HEART: I found the whole death penalty debate to be more academic than emotionally compelling. I found it hard to believe that Shay's heart was a perfect match for June's daughter and that any prison or judge in America would allow someone to die by hanging. I had some trouble with the mythology of miracles she created around this event. I also disliked the ending because it made me doubt everything I'd believed about Shay which made me feel cheated. It also made Father Michael's doubt seem to not matter.

Overall, I'd give this one 3 1/2 stars. It was thought provoking but had some structural flaws that I found it hard to overlook. What did you think?


Presbyterian Gal said...

I'm reading this one now, and I don't mind the spoilers. It's a brain candy break for me.

I'm having some of the same issues you did. Though one thing I find interesting is the more sympathetic POV of the ACLU through Maggie.

Petunia said...

It sounds interesting but I tend to shy away from Picoult's books because she always deals with such tough topics. I think I'll pass on this one.