‘Your daughter needs a new heart. The only match comes from a murderer. What would you do?’
This is the caption I found on my copy of Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult. I read the caption. Pretty interesting situation. Then I started to read the novel. Man, if only the situation was as simple and straight as the way caption puts it.
June’s husband dies in a car accident from which she and their daughter escapes. She is remarried to a police officer who helped her through the trauma. Five years later she is expecting her and Kurt’s child when he and Elizabeth (her daughter from the first marriage) is shot dead by a carpenter (Shay Bourne) who worked for them.
The child is born with a severe heart condition that affects her life(gee give June a break, right? ). At the age of eleven, Claire is going through a hard phase in dire need of a heart. Let’s just pause there.
With a caption like that, we think the main character is the mother. Well, nope. Draw a word web of sun and she will be one of the many rays that surrounds the circle. And in the circle stands Shay Bourne, the murderer. Exactly. He is the centre of everything (no pun intended). He is the first person in the last 58 years of New Hampshire to receive a death sentence. At the early 20s he is put in the jail to be executed. Somehow it gets delayed, for 11 years.
Now strange things start to happen in the jail. The pipe water suddenly turns into wine. A dead bird comes back to life when Shay touches it. He shares a small piece of gum with 7 other inmates and still some it is left. Most importantly, Lucius, the guy in the neighbouring cell gets cured of AIDS leaving no symptom to indicate that he was a severe patient till yesterday. So is officer Smythe’s son.
Ring any bells? Turning water into wine, giving life to dead, curing the sick! Quite familiar scenarios, right? Well, what happens in jail never stays in jail. People around came to know about it and they declared Shay Bourne, a convict for double murder, the messiah. But Shay Bourne wants nothing but to be able to donate his heart to Claire Nealon after his execution. Which by the way is not possible if he is executed by lethal injection. Here comes Father Michael as spiritual advisor and Maggie Blooms as his self appointed attorney. They tries to help Shay inorder to help themselves. Another example for there is no selfless good deed. (Again F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference) Father Michael wants to make up for what happened in the past (read the novel, if you want to know what it is. I can’t tell you everything). Maggie wants to remove execution from the penal system.
The novel is not entirely focused on a mother’s dilemma of whether to accept the heart of the perpetrator. It’s much more than that. From the beginning itself we get the feeling that the culprit is given more importance than the victims. Towards the middle we find ourselves on the side of Shay. At one point I was so excited for this Shay guy that I had to smack my own back of the head and say stop cheering for a criminal. As pages turned I was literally confused about Shay. People called him Messiah and Jesus incarnated. We are given so many parallels between the both. But, no. Shay is not Jesus. He is just a man who followed the path of Jesus and worked for the greater good.
About this novel, it gives you a new perspective on religion. TBH this novel was equally informative and entertaining. God, this is why I love reading novels. I don’t know how Judi Picoult come up with such brilliant plots. I would suggest everyone to read this novel Change of Heart. You don’t have to be religious to read and enjoy this book. Coz this one is not about religion but about human and humanity. Then again, we can easily call GOod Deeds GOD.
The plot is full of crucial events. Loads of miracles to pull us more into the world of characters . The journey through this novel is more like unravelling the character of Shay Bourne. His character remains mysterious even at the end of the novel. I’ll tell you why.
Claire walks back to life with Shay’s heart beating inside her. She finds that her dog lying motionless. She checks for heartbeat which has already left the body. She calls out for her mother and hugs the dog’s dead body. Now it’s time for the final miracle. When she keeps the dog close to her heart, Dudley’s heart starts to beat again. Dudley is alive again. Okay so may be it’s not a final miracle, it could be the beginning of some new miracles.
Like Kurt Nealon says, people are never who you think they are. Read it guys. It’s really good.