Friday, August 13, 2010

Bookshelf: Jodi Picoult



*****

I picked Jodi Picoult's "Change of Heart" up a few weeks ago on a tear through Borders simply because it was marked at $6 for the hardcover. Hardcover! I couldn't pass it by. But, in my rush to get a bargain I never actually read the inside cover. So when I sat down and began reading I was immediately covered in goosebumps at how crazy of a situation I was being thrown into.
June Nealon is in a car accident in which she and her young daughter survive but her husband is killed. Five years later the police officer that pulled them from the wreck becomes her husband and then they get pregnant with her second child. They hire a contractor to do an addition to the house for the new baby but he quits part way through. So they hire someone who comes to their door. That man is Shay Bourne, who is then convicted of killing June's first daughter and husband while she's eight months pregnant. That's just within the first four pages!
I was wholly unprepared for this book and should have read the inside flap before jumping head first into this. But then again, being unaware made it all the more shocking, which is saying something since it's clearly shocking enough. "Change Of Heart" begins with Shay Bourne's trial, but only briefly, before skipping eleven years ahead. That's when everything goes in a tail spin.
June Nealon's second daughter, Claire, is slowly dying while waiting for a heart transplant. Shay Bourne is on death row in the Concord prison waiting to be executed. Michael, now a father in the Catholic church, was a young man on the jury that convicted Shay and is now struggling to come to terms with what that conviction means (as well as his own faith) - the death of another person, whether deserved or not. Maggie Bloom appoints herself Shay's new lawyer and with Father Michael's help sets out to test the legal system and question whether the death penalty should be allowed back into New Hampshire's prison system after 60-someodd years.
There is so much going on in this story, from discussion of religion and beliefs to questions of the legal system to coping with unimaginable tragedy in one's life. I have to say, sometimes the religion discussions got a bit overwhelming for me. Other times though, I was really amazed at what I was learning. That's the thing about Jodi, and why I adore her so much, she does her homework. I felt like she knew the ins and outs of the prison system as well as being a scholar of religion and that was just to create two of the characters. Besides her being so thorough in her preparation for a novel I love how smoothly she transitions from one character's voice to the next. She wrote from four very different perspectives and they were all clear and individualized. I loved Maggie Bloom the most because she was funny, sarcastic, and trying to save the world. And meanwhile, she is single, lives with her pet rabbit, hasn't had a date in years and is the atheist daughter of a rabbi. Can you get a more complex character? She was the laughter scattered throughout a very serious book.
I almost cried on the T ride home today while finishing the last twenty pages of the book. I took deep breaths and worked my way through it without making a fool of myself in front of strangers, but it's hard. Jodi knows just how to tug at your heart. The sadder thing is, I knew how it was going to turn out from the beginning. You see, there's always a twist at the end of her books, where she knocks you completely on your ass and let's you wallow in the knowledge that you were so completely wrong about one of the characters. Or else she sideswipes you with some traumatic unforeseen ending. Always. She's the master of it. But knowing that there would be something like that happening, I had a gut feeling from page five that things weren't what they seemed. I won't tell you what I mean because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might want to read "Change of Heart". But I will say that it was very reminisent of "The Green Mile", which those of you that have read "Change of Heart" I'm sure can agree with. It's the whole prison thing... and much more.
Jodi never disappoints me. That's why she's always my go-to author in between books. She's a page turner and I love her short chapters and ability to switch from character to character. Honestly, I'm just in awe of her.
"Furious Love" keeps winking at me from the shelf, just begging to be read. But I still don't think I'm emotionally ready for that tumultuous ride. So maybe part deux of Jennifer Donnelly's series? Hmmm, maybe.
Happy reading to you!
~Stephanie
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1 comment

  1. Jodi Picoult is my home girl. How many times have I met her? FOUR. I am quite the fanboy.

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