Pros: Interesting topics, good prose
I just finished Jodi Picoults latest novel- Change of Heart. I have been a fan of hers for a number of years, and I always look forward to her new books. I didnt want to buy it, so I requested it from the library network. There were almost 100 other holds for about as many copies, so I didnt expect to get the book so soon. When I picked it up, the librarian informed me that there were other holds, so I would not be able to renew. So, I bumped this up to the top of my personal queue. The book was so intriguing that I finished it over the weekend!
When I began to read Change of Heart, my first thought was that I liked this the first time when it was called The Green Mile. Both stories deal with a man convicted of murder who arrive to a new prison and then strange (odd, but not frightening) things begin to occur. Dont get me wrong- Im a big fan of that particular Steven King story- but the whole thing initially had a been there done that feeling surrounding it.
But of course, Picoult makes the story her own. The convicted killer is Shay Bourne, and he has been condemned to death for the murder of a police officer and the police officers young step-daughter. Bourne certainly feels remorse for his actions, and after he sees something on television about Claire Nealon, the sister/daughter of his victims needing a heart transplant, Shay decides that he wants to give his heart to the young girl.
In true Picoult fashion, the story is told from multiple viewpoints. We hear from June, who was pregnant at the time of the murders. She refuses outright to meet with Shay, let alone accept his heart. As a younger man, Michael was on the jury that sentenced Shay to death, and he is now a Catholic priest serving as Shays legal advisor. Maggie is an ACLU lawyer working on Shays case and Lucius is an HIV positive man who lives in the cell next to Shays.
The chapters are quite short, and each one is devoted to a different persons perspective. The events unfold chronologically, as opposed to having the same events described from multiple perspectives. And each person has his/her own issues outside of the Shay Bourne case.
But the one thing that binds them is the Shay Bourne case. As the odd things begin to occur, they are very much like some of the miracles that Jesus performed. And when word gets out of the things that are happening, people begin to flock to the prison. Picoult has a very interesting take on the miracles and gives them a bit of a modern spin; the loaves and fishes become a multiplying piece of Bazooka gum. It should be noted that Shea never claims to be any sort of messianic figure; it is the people around him who draw their own conclusions based on what they hear and need to believe.
And of course, it wouldnt be a Jodi Picoult novel without a legal portion. In Change of Heart, the legal battle centers on Shays rights- but interestingly enough, they are not fighting for Shays death sentence to be lifted.
This book is certainly thought-provoking with when it comes to its views on religion and the legal system as the story unfolds. But the prose is fairly simple and when paired with the short chapters, the result is reminiscent of lighter fare.
I highly recommend Change of Heart. I enjoyed it very much. I would definitely consider purchasing a personal copy once it is released in paperback. While there were some similarities to her other novels- like an inevitable big twist- the interesting views on religion, the legal system, and the death penalty make this a riveting read. If you are a fan of Picoult, you will definitely like this latest book!