Sunday, March 7, 2010
Change of Heart
On my rampage of reading Jodi Picoult novels, I have just finished reading another one of her novels, Change of Heart. At first, the plot didn't really grab me. It seemed like another one of her novels centering around a controversial topic that just seemed over-the-top (maybe could never happen), but as I kept reading, I got hooked. She definitely has the ability to grab you as a reader!
Even though I didn't feel a strong personal connection or opinion on the topics in this book, I started to become interested in the plot and what happened with these characters. One strength that Picoult has is that she creates in depth characters that readers can connect with. She makes us care about them, so we want to keep reading to see what happens to them.
In Change of Heart, the main premise surrounds a convicted murderer, Shay Bourne, who murdered the husband and daughter of June Nealon. He is sentenced with capital punishment and waits eleven years to receive the death penalty.
During this eleven year lapse of time, June Nealon's other daughter (who was still in her stomach as a fetus when the murders occurred, leaving her alone) develops a heart condition that will kill her if she does not receive a heart transplant. In order to redeem himself, Shay wants to give his heart to Claire, the daughter. But, if he is given a lethal injection, his heart would not be able to be delivered to Claire because the injection stops the heart. He would have to die in a different way (like hanging) to be braindead; then organs could be donated.
This issue then becomes a matter of religious preference--prison inmates are still allowed to practice their religion. Maggie Bloom, Shay's attorney, argues in court that Shay needs to be able to practice his religion freely, and his religion propels him to want to donate his organs so that he can feel redemption and peace within his soul before passing. So, a trial ensues (like a lot of her other novels).
Enter Michael Wright, Shay's spiritual advisor. He is summoned by his church to advise Shay to give up this silly idea of heart donation. Michael has a strange connection to Shay though: he served on the jury that sentenced Shay to death. We eventually find out, in the last section of the book, that Shay knew this all along. But, the whole time, we assume that Michael is waiting to unleash this bombshell of information, which he finally does.
Maggie and Michael become friends, being the only connections Shay has. They discuss religion, or their lack of belief in it. Michael became a priest after Shay's trial, feeling lost and alone, he felt his calling. Maggie used to be Jewish, her father is a rabbi, but now she is atheist. They have many conversations about religion.
And, speaking of religion, Ian Fletcher from Keeping Faith makes an appearance. He consults Michael on the topic of this trial and religion, and he becomes a wtiness at the trial. Since this novel takes place further in time than Keeping Faith, we learn what happens to Ian and Mariah after the novel. The two have twin boys (who he nicknames Cain and Abel), Ian continues to publish his novels in his barn office, and Mariah continues to work on her dollhouses. They live a happy life.
Anyway, twists and turns come in the plot. SPOILER ALERT...
Shay came from a foster family and his sister Grace hated him forever for burning their house and leaving her with nasty scars on her face. Come to find out, once we meet Grace, she actually started the fire. Shay actually saved her but took the blame. This landed him in a juvenile detenetion center, changing the course of his life forever.
This foreshadows his later crime with the Nealons. I figured out what happened once June Nealon and Shay met in jail. June asks Shay, "Why? Why did you do it?" and Shay replies, "She was better off dead." What does that mean? Well, the father was sexually molesting the child. Shay walked in on them, and he tried to save her. Unfortunately, since the husband was a cop, he fired off shots that killed the daughter. However, Shay does kill the husband out of anger. He says, "Some people deserve to die." Since the husband was a cop, Shay had no fighting chance to get out of this. He took the blame and the death sentence. All he wanted was sympathy from June Nealon, but he didn't want to ruin her life again with this disasterous news, even though she does figure it out later which makes her, in turn, receive the heart to save Claire's life.
In the midst of the plot, Maggie researches how to save Shay through a doctor named Christian (ironic name). He and Maggie eventually fall in love. But, Maggie has some serious weight problems which are constantly addressed in the book. Christian helps her overcome this conflict.
Besides Christian's name, other names are significant as well. Michael Wright--he almost feels like he is on his righteous path. He is "right" even though all priests and others think he is wrong. Maggie Bloom--her last name suggests her coming out of her shell with this case. She finally feels alive and has found her niche to make her feel like a real, contributing person of worth and substance. Shay Bourne--his real name creates the phrase I.M. Bourne, which alludes to his questioning position as Jesus Christ reincarnated.
Another HUGE point of the book is the question of Shay being the messiah. While in prison, he creates religious miracles that cannot be explained. On his first night in prison, the water in the pipes turn to wine (a connection to Jesus). He takes a dead bird in the prison and breathes life back into it. He can change the moods of prisoners to act nicer than they would. He revives a dead prison guard when pronounced dead. And, he cures a prisoner, Lucious, of having AIDS.
Lucious is another point of view from within the prison. This is a person who we get to see inside his head. He tells us what goes on with Shay, as we never get to see inside of his head. Lucious eventually dies from complication of AIDS which begs the question--was the initial cure real?
Lucious was an artist who killed his boyfriend Adam (another religious reference) when he cheated on him. He painted lots of tattoos and backed Shay in believing that his supernatural powers might really be connected with a religious purpose.
Both angry and supporting people gather outside the prison on a daily basis to either promote that he IS the messiah or to belittle his "miracles" and say that he deserves to die. The ironic twist is that the trial and conviction IS a lot like Jesus Christ. Wrongfully committed of a crime, dies for others' sins, performs miracles. Kind of interesting.
At the end, Shay says that he will see Michael in three days. In the epilogue, three days later, Claire discovers that her dog is dead. When she picks him up, she holds him to her chest and feels that he has come back alive. Are we to believe that Christ has risen again inside this dog? Is Shay back? What do we think?
End of SPOILER!!
I really liked the writing style of this novel again--switching perspectives from the minds of multiple characters. That must be a very difficult way to write because it's hard to determine who should tell what part of the plot. But in any event, I was very drawn in and interested in the novel and the plot.
What do we think of Change of Heart?