Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Change of Heart - Book Review

Change of Heart
by Jodi Picoult
Simon & Schuster 2008
Authors website

Now that I have discovered Jodi Picoult's books, I want to read them all. So far I have read four. They all involved court cases. Two of them were religious and the other two were medical.

This book is about Shay Bourne who committed capital murder (2 victims) and was sentenced to death. He has now spent 11 years on death row.

Shay is a slow learner. He has learning disability and seldom talks. He also seems to have the gift of healing.

In chapter one Shay Bourne is hired as a handy man to fix up the old house. The family consists of June, her husband Kurt and their 4 year old daughter Elizabeth.

Chapter two is Shay's trial for the murder of Kurt and Elizabeth. Since Shay's lawyer never puts Shay on the stand, he never has any opportunity to give his side of the story.

Chapter three is the present time, now 11 years later. June was pregnant when Kurt and Elizabeth died. She named her daughter Claire. Claire is now 11 years old and her heart is failing. She needs a new heart within a few months or she too will die.

Shay's last appeal for clemency is denied and his execution is set for 6 weeks hence. In all the 11 years he has never told anyone what really happened. He calls for a spiritual counselor (Father Michael) and tells the priest that he wants to donate his heart to Claire. He knows he must die but he still wants to donate his heart to Claire. Her story was in the newspapers. He wants to save the sister of the litte girl that was killed.

The trouble with donating his heart, is that lethal injections will stop the heart (that is their job) and ruin it for any transplant. An ACLU lawyer named Maggie becomes involved. When she interviews Shay and understands that it is his wish to donate his heart, she goes to court to get his execution method changed to hanging because that will not damage the heart.

The court case is all about the history of religions (mostly the Gnostics) and what constitutes a religion and does Shay really have a religion. A very interesting court case to read. I was surpised when Ian Fletcher showed up as an expert. Ian is an atheist from the book Keeping the Faith.

Meanwhile Shay's healing skills are used in the prison and become public knowledge outside the prison. A large group of religious people gather at the prison to hold vigil. Some of them want Shay to heal them, and others say that Shay is a devil, a false healer.

When June finds out that Shay want to donate his heart to Claire, she refuses, as does Claire when she finds out. Neither of them want anything to do with Shay.

As the day of execution creeps closer, we need to know the following answers.
Does Maggie win her court trial?
Does Shay get his hanging?
What really happened the day Kurt and Elizabeth were shot and killed?
Does Claire get a new heart?

You have to read this book to find out.
I really enjoyed it.

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