This is a review on Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
Warning: Spoiler (and I spill the ending).
Change of Heart is the eighth Jodi Picoult book I read. I borrowed a copy from my school’s library. If it weren’t for My Sister’s Keeper, I’d probably say this is my fave Picoult book.
Change of Heart is about a death-row inmate named Shay Bourne who’s been convicted of a double homicide. A young priest, Michael Wright, is the last juror to agree to sentence Bourne to death, because Shay killed Kurt Nealon, a cop, and his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Nealon.
While in prison, Shay watches a fundraiser on TV and learns that Claire Nealon, the half-sister of one of his victims, needs a new heart. Soon after deciding he wants to donate his heart to her post-execution, he has a seizure and is taken to the prison infirmary.
Meanwhile, June Nealon is praying for a miracle, praying for a heart to arrive, praying that she won’t have to say goodbye to another daughter. Claire, who is eleven, suffers from pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy. Without a heart transplant, she will definitely die. She has an AICD- automated implantable cardioverter defibrillator- which restarts her heart by administering an electric shock throughout her body.
Back at the prison, Shay is performing miracles witnessed by fellow in-mates and Father Michael. Shay tells Michael he wants to donate his heart, and Michael says God forgives him and that he doesn’t have to do this. Shay quotes this from the Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth what is within you what it within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you what is within you will destroy you.” Michael says Shay can’t donate his organs, and Maggie Bloom, an ACLU- American Civil Liberties Union- lawyer, comes in and says she knows a way for Shay to be executed and donate his organs.
Apparently, every state that has the death penalty has an alternative form of execution: Firing squad (Utah), gas chamber (Arizona), or, in New Hampshire, hanging. Thus begins a trial where Maggie becomes Shay’s lawyer and fights for Shay’s right to be hanged. Maggie, who is opposed to the death penalty, is hoping that Shay’s trial will repeal the death penalty.
Back at the Nealon’s house, June, who at first wanted nothing to do with Shay, finally agrees to take his heart. She tries to tell Claire about it one afternoon, but she’s more interested in Full House. When June unplugs the TV’s cord, Claire yells at her, June tries to apologise, and Claire’s AICD goes off. Usually, her heart starts beating again right away, but this time it doesn’t, and Claire is taken to the nearest emergency-room. At the hospital, there’s an unspoken agreement that the hospital is Claire’s new home until either 1): A new heart arrives; or 2):Her heart gives out.
The trial begins and Ian Fletcher of Keeping Faith (1999) makes a special appearance. Dr. Wu- Claire’s cardiologist- declares Shay’s heart to be a perfect match for Claire. At the the end of the trial, Judge Haig allows Shay to be hanged.
When June discusses this with Claire in the hospital, she says she doesn’t his “stupid heart.” June respects her daughter’s wishes, until one night at the hospital, she flatlines. After Claire flatlines, June knows she has to go against her daughter’s wishes and take the heart. She tells Claire how the doctors will transplant the heart in, and she goes into the surgery.
In the epilogue, Claire is home and it’s been three weeks since her heart transplant. She goes over to her dog Dudley and begins to cry when she realises he’s dead. Claire picks Dudley up and hugs him, and his heart starts beating again.
I loved this book. As with Picoult’s previous books, each chapter is narrated by a different person. Narrartors are June Nealon, Lucius DuFrense- a man who killed his boyfriend-, Maggie, Michael, and Claire. I was really happy Claire lived and that her AICD was gone; she really hated it.
This book will really teach you about the death penalty and life behind bars. I highly recommend it. I’d rate it 5/5.