“Every inmate is someone’s child. And so is every
How do you balance the scales so that justice is served yet society
retains its compassion? One reply: It may not be when we
want or how we want, but eventually God evens the
As a wife and mother, June Nealon has already lost so much, and she
is now in danger of losing even more --- her daughter, Claire.
Hanging on by literally a heartbeat, Claire is running out of time.
Organ donors can be hard to come by under the best of
circumstances. Add in all the factors that make Claire a tougher
match still, then consider her youth, and the pool of hearts
available to this little girl for transplant is almost nonexistent.
The doctor calls, and June rushes Claire to the hospital only to be
told once again that something has happened to disqualify the
donor. When a volunteer --- an actual volunteer --- comes forward,
knowing he will die soon, he is wrong in so many ways to be the one
who saves Claire’s life. But he is also right in so many
ways. And Claire’s options are nearly at an end.
Shay Bourne sits on death row as New Hampshire’s only inmate
convicted of a crime so heinous that the jury voted to execute him.
He has a history of aberrant behavior, stemming from the time he
was a foster child on up through a troubled adulthood. That may go
a ways to explain his learning disorder, a condition that threatens
his ability to make himself understood. Or maybe he is just
antisocial. His foster mom has nothing kind to say about Shay. He
has no friends. There is a sister somewhere, but she never visits
him. Looking at the overall picture, it seems that he is a rare bad
seed. Bad seed or misunderstood messiah, as those around him soon
discover, Shay Bourne is undeniably rare.
Father Michael steps forward as Shay’s spiritual advisor. The
priest’s stated goal, naturally, is to save Shay’s
soul, but he has another reason for wanting to counsel this
particular prisoner. And it’s very personal. The more
he’s around Shay, the more he begins to doubt his view of
organized religion, and his opinion of Shay, for Shay displays some
Champion of death penalty opposition, ACLU attorney Maggie Bloom
bulls her way into Shay’s life, hoping to save it. She
struggles with the law, the system, the victim, the state of New
Hampshire, and even Father Michael. But none of these battles is
her biggest challenge; her client is.
Shay Bourne, the man sparking all the controversy, polarizes the
church, the ACLU and the prison staff during his final weeks on
this earth. Inmates, guards, attorneys, priests, protestors,
supporters and zealots find themselves rethinking their staunchest
opinions. It is a time of looking inward. For some, it brings
revelation; for others, crisis. No one walks away from a brush with
Shay Bourne unchanged.
CHANGE OF HEART is hands down Jodi Picoult’s most
thought-provoking novel to date. You may not believe in the death
penalty, or you may scoff at religion, but you cannot deny the
astonishing power this story holds. It will force you to look at
the issues from all sides. Tough and gritty, yet poignant, I defy
anyone to get through this book without crying --- at least half a
dozen times. That’s how emotionally compelling it is.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 10, 2011
Change Of Heart