Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart
Eleven years ago, June Nealon lived the worst of nightmares: a man killed her husband and one of her daughters. Now, her life is again taking a turn for the worst: her other daughter is sick and will die if she doesn’t get a new heart. So far, no compatible organ donor has been found. When Shay Bourne, the man who is responsible for the death of part of her family, and currently waiting on the death row, wants to give his heart to Claire as a way of redemption, June’s daughter, several problems arise. First, Bourne is supposed to die by lethal injection, which will cause his heart to stop and render it unusable for transplant. Second, June, who understandably hates Bourne, must decide if she wants the heart of a murderer to go on beating in her daughter’s body.
Let’s begin by the obvious: Change of Heart is not Jodi Picoult’s strongest novel. As many reviews mention it, the twist, for which Jodi Picoult is famous, can be seen coming from afar. Also, Change of Heart raises themes that Picoult already looked into with Keeping Faith, with pretty much the same conclusions. I suppose that when Picoult did her research for the first novel, she came across so many information that she felt she could write another book. But the whole issue of the Gnostic gospels, if it is very interesting, is already known to many, ever since the movie Stigmata was made. And ever since the Da Vinci Code, score of books have enlightened us on this or similar subjects, ad nauseam. I used to love these novels but avoid them now… The whole part with Shay Bourne making miracles (or not) was in part something she already treated, as I have said, in Keeping Faith, and also the subject of Stephen King’s The Green Mile, of which Jodi Picoult inspires herself (acknowledging it once, granted) to the point where she is uncomfortably flirting with plagiarism. Also, even though the character of Shay is a bit of a riddle, Picoult insists from the beginning that he is hardly literate and has trouble to express himself: strange for someone who is able to have very articulate and scholarly debates on religions in prison!
So, Change of Heart is not Picoult’s best novel, yet it is manages to be a quickly-paced page-turner like her other books, and for once, the love story between two of its characters (Maggie Bloom and Chistian Gallagher), is not trite but full of sparkle and humor (Maggie is one of her best female characters, in my opinion). The character of June Nealon, on the contrary, is not fleshed out and it is a shame, because in a novel debating a moral issue such as death penalty, we certainly would like the point of view of the mother of a victim to be put forward a bit more.