Prather’s Pick: Picoult pens powerful novel
Jodi Picoult, author of more than 20 novels, is the master of her craft. Her books are so carefully constructed that the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages.
Picoult’s novels have several things in common. First, they deal with issues facing modern-day society, and Picoult has done her research on all of them. In the end, her books leave the reader with something to think about. The plots of her books are at once disturbing and heartwarming. Sometimes, the reader can’t bear to read on but just has to keep turning the pages. And — always — there are twists and unexpected endings. In short, Picoult’s novels are wonderful.
Take “Change of Heart,” this week’s book, for example. Its plot deals with the death penalty. Picoult researched the opinions of various religions on capital punishment and visited death row in Arizona. She didn’t go into the novel without doing her homework, and she wove all this into a story with powerful characters.
There’s so much to the plot of “Change of Heart,” but the following summary is intended to let readers know what to expect from the book.
The novel begins in 1996, when June Nealson is looking back on recent events in her life. She, husband Jack and daughter Elizabeth were a happy family. Then, they were run off the road by a drunken driver. Jack was killed; June and Elizabeth survived.
Kurt Nealson was a policeman who looked after June and Elizabeth that awful day, then kept coming around afterward. Eventually, Kurt and June fell in love, married and were soon expecting a baby of their own. When a contractor they had hired to build the baby’s room unexpectedly left, the couple hired Shay Bourne to finish the job. Bourne just showed up on their doorstep with his tools. He becomes the central character of the novel.
In Chapter 2, it is seven months later, and Michael now tells the events from his point of view. Michael is a juror for a trial resulting from the crime of the century, in which a little girl and her policeman stepfather were brutally murdured. The jury has already found Shay Bourne guilty, and now, they are into the second part of the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the first time in 58 years.
Shay Bourne is sentenced to death. He is moved to the state prison at Concord. Now, the prison events are told by a prisoner named Lucius, and the reader learns that Bourne seems to possess some special powers.
(Picoult crafted the novel so that its events are told by four narrators: June, Michael, Lucius and a lawyer named Maggie. In a question-and-answer section at the end of the book, Picoult says the
voices of these narrators correspond to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is an additional narrator, who tells the events in the final chapter of the book.)
The years pass. June’s baby, Kurt’s daughter, Claire, develops a serious heart problem. She needs a heart transplant. Shay Bourne wants to donate his heart. Nobody could expect the ending to this novel.
“Change of Heart” is not a new novel. It was written in 2008, but it doesn’t matter that it isn’t brand new. It’s wonderful. I purchased the paperback book, published by Pocket Books for $8.99. You can also find this book and others by Jodi Picoult at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.
On a cool autumn afternoon in 1914 Hayden, a human being was seen occupying space previously reserved for only birds, clouds and celestial bodies. It was a monumental occasion — one that shook the very fiber of reality for the people of Northwest Colorado.