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Would you want to live with a murderer's heart?
Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult
Member Name: hayley_dl
Change of Heart - Jodi Picoult
Advantages: gripping page turner, well written
Disadvantages: maybe not for everyone
I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for a long time now and have worked through most of her books. Whilst Change of Heart isn't one of her newer ones it's one I've only just managed to have the time to get around to reading.
Like all Picoult's books this focuses on a moral dilemma, this time the question is if your child needed a heart and the only one available was from a murderer, would you take it? The plot involves a double murder involving a child and a police officer. The person responsible for the murders is convicted and sentenced to death. Eleven years later the widowers other child is seriously ill and desperately needs a heart to save her life, so far no match has been found. When Shay (the convicted murderer) hears of this search for a heart, he offers his own. After checks confirm that he is a perfect match the mother is then left with a difficult choice - does she take the heart of the person who killed her daughter and husband or does she risk the life of her other daughter too by refusing the heart?
I very rarely have anything negative to say about any of Picoult's books and this is no different. I loved this and it had me gripped right from the beginning. Like most (if not all) of Picoult's novels the book is divided into four parts each with chapters written by different people: Michael, a priest who is Shay's spiritual advisor in the latter part of his sentence; Maggie, Shay's lawyer during the latter part of his sentence; June, the widow and mother of both the child who was murdered and the child who needs a heart and finally Lucius, a convicted murderer in the cell next to Shay.
I love the way her books are written in general but especially the way she breaks them down into different people's viewpoints. I feel this allows a more in-depth view of the main character (in this case Shay) as it allows you to see him from many different people's points of view. When reading the chapters written from Michael, Maggie and Lucius' point of view you develop a certain level of empathy with Shay as they are the ones that get closest to him and see him in a way noone else does but then reading the chapters written from June's point of view you remember the real tragedy underlining all of this - that a young child and a police officer were murdered.
The characters themselves are very well portrayed, not just Shay but all the others involved. Michael I found a little hard to relate to at first, but after having read a couple of chapters from his point of view he seemed to become more "real" to me and develop that certain amount of depth that a character needs for me to be able to relate to them. I do think however that this may have been due to his role at the beginning of the book since before becoming Shay's spiritual advisor he was on the jury that sentenced him to death so that's a big jump for a character to make. June's character in particular I found I could relate to very well. She obviously still harboured a lot of hatred for Shay but then who can blame her after he killed her husband and child? Her chapters however provided that certain level of realism needed and kept the story grounded in what the whole story was about. I would say that although the story obviously focused on Shay that it is June herself who is really the main character - after all, the whole tragedy underlining this book does revolve around her.
This book deals with a lot of questions, along with the continually underlying question of whether or not she will take the heart it also deals with questions around cellular memory and Picoult sites some interesting studies that seem to prove cellular memory does exist despite Claire (her surviving daughters) doctor insisting that there is no scientific proof that cellular memory is a real phenomenon. There is also some religious questions in this book - besides Michael being a priest and Maggie's father being a Rabbi; Shay, whilst in prison, starts performing miracles such as turning the water in their tier to wine, curing Lucius' AIDS, saving a correctional officers daughter and bringing a dead correctional officer back to life. This obviously takes some explaining and when news of these miracles reaches outside the prison walls there are questions revolving around whether or not Shay is really Jesus and he develops a rather large number of supporters that camp outside the prison wanting him to heal them.
There is also a twist towards the end of the book that I didn't see coming at all and I found really added to the story and especially Shay's character. There is also an Epilogue written by Claire herself and whilst this story does revolve around her you don't really hear too much about her - only the small mention she gets in the chapters written from June's point of view and so I felt this was a really good addition to this book and a good ending to the novel.
This is one I would highly recommend not only to Picoult fans but also to anyone who likes books that deal with difficult questions and make you think. Just make sure you don't have anything planned for the next couple of days because you won't be able to put it down!
Summary: one I highly recommend