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Change of Heart (Picoult)

Change of Heart 
Jodi Picoult, 2008
Simon & Schuster
480 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780743496759


Summary
Can we save ourselves, or do we rely on others to do it? Is what we believe always the truth?

One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.

For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June's eleven-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.

Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish?

Once again, Jodi Picoult mesmerizes and enthralls readers with this story of redemption, justice, and love. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—May 19, 1966
Where—New York, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Princeton University; M.A., Harvard University
Currently—lives in Hanover, New Hampshire


Jodi Picoult received an A.B. in creative writing from Princeton and a master's degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of fourteen novels, including The Tenth Circle, Vanishing Acts, and My Sister's Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association's Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. Recently, she penned several issues of Wonder Woman for DC Comics. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. (From the publisher.)

More
Born on Long Island, New York, Jodi Picoult was convinced that the tranquil, suburban setting offered no real inspiration to her for being a writer. There was no drama; just the daily grind of families living their lives. Eventually, though, the story of this challenge became the core of Picoult's bestselling novels.

Picoult studied creative writing at Princeton, and before she graduated, she had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine. This early success inspired Picoult to devote her life to writing. After college, she paid the bills with a series of copywriting and editing jobs, and she even taught eighth grade English. Marriage and children soon followed, and while she was pregnant with her first child, she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale, a remarkable tale told from five different points of view that heralded a bold new voice in fiction.

In subsequent novels, Picoult has mined the complex mysteries of everyday life: love, marriage, career, family. Faced with difficult, often painful moral choices, her characters struggle to find balance in an off-kilter world fraught with danger and shattered by terrible sociological ills like domestic violence, sexual abuse, and teen suicide. Though page-turners of the highest order, Picoult's stories avoid easy solutions and provoke thoughtful reading and animated discussion. Unsurprisingly, they are a favorite choice for book clubs.

From her web site, Picoult talks about the relationship between her family and her writing. "It took me a while to find the balance," Picoult says, "but I'm a better mother because I have my writing...and I'm a better writer because of the experiences I've had as a parent that continually remind me how far we are willing to go for the people we love the most."

Extras
From a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview and her website:

• She has gone skydiving and says, "and I'd do it again—if I didn't have kids."

• Picoult and her family own two Jersey calves, named Decalf and Coffee.

• Before becoming a novelist, Picoult worked at a two-person ad agency, where her main responsibility was "to keep the owner's wife from finding out he was sleeping with the freelance art director."

• If she could invite anyone, living or dead, to a dinner party, Picoult's guest list would include Ernest Hemingway, Alice Hoffman, William Shakespeare, Mel Gibson, and Emeril Lagasse.

• Other than writing, other talents of Picoult's include making Linzer tortes and broccoli soup, and childbirth. "I'm awfully good at giving birth—quickly, no drugs, etc.—though that definitely has a limited appeal," she quips.

When asked what book influenced her most, here is what she said:

Gone With The Wind. I read it when I was twelve—I was a total dork, and memorized huge sweeping dialogues I could act out as both Scarlett and Rhett. But what stuck with me was the way Margaret Mitchell managed to create an entire world out of words. I thought, "I want to do that."  (Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)

Novels
Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992)
Harvesting the Heart (1993)
Picture Perfect (1995)
The Pact (1998)
Keeping Faith (1999)
Plain Truth (2000)
Salem Falls (2001)
Perfect Match (2002)
Second Glance (2003)
My Sister's Keeper (2004)
Vanishing Acts (2005)
The Tenth Circle (2006)
Nineteen Minutes (2007)
Change of Heart (2008)
Handle With Care (2009)
House Rules (2010)
Sing You Home (2011)
Lone Wolf (2012)
The Storyteller (2013)
Leaving Time (2014) (Bibliograhphy from Wikipedia.)



Book Reviews
Picoult is a rare writer who delivers book after book, a winning combination of the literary and the commercial.
Entertainment Weekly


Picoult moves the story along with lively debates about prisoner rights and religion, while plumbing the depths of mother-daughter relationships and examining the literal and metaphorical meanings of having heart. The point-of-view switches are abrupt, but this is a small flaw in an impressive book.
Publishers Weekly


Noted for her heart-wrenching stories and the complicated humanity of her characters, Picoult continues her successful foray into fiction.... Picoult tackles the most complicated personal and political issues with compassion and clarity, and her fans will want this one. Suitable for all public libraries
Colleen S. Harris - School Library Journal


A convicted murderer who may be a latter-day Messiah wants to donate his heart to the sister of one of his victims, in Picoult's frantic 15th. Picoult specializes in hot-button issues.... Clunky prose and long-winded dissertations on comparative religion can't impede the breathless momentum of the Demon-Drop plot.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
1. The author uses several famous quotations from some of the greatest thinkers in history, including Lewis Carroll, Voltaire, Woody Allen, Mother Teresa, Mark Twain, the Dalai Lama, Bono, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Albert Einstein. What effect do these philosophical tidbits have on the telling of this story? Which one resonated most with you?

2. Discuss the theme of belief in this novel. What does Shay believe, and who believes in him? Apply this same question to Maggie, Michael, and June. Did this story call any of their beliefs into question? Which ones?

3. When Shay is moved to the I-tier, some very strange things start happening—water turns to wine, Calloway's pet robin is brought back to life, a tiny piece of gum becomes enough for all to share. Some call these miracles while others call them hijinks. What do you make of these incidents? Were you convinced that Shay had divine powers, and if so, at what point did you make that conclusion?

4. Michael tells Maggie that "there's a big difference between mercy and salvation" (142). What is that difference? Which characters are pursuing mercy and which are pursuing salvation? Which, do you think, is granted in the end for each of the main characters?

5. Having lost a daughter and two husbands, June's life is fraught with grief. How do you see that grief shaping her character and informing the choices that she makes? Do you think she makes choices in order to reconcile the past or in hopes of a better future?

6. How do the three religions referenced in this book (Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism) imagine the presence or reappearance of the divine? Compare Michael's vision on p. 71 with Rabbi Bloom's explanation of the Jewish Midrash on p. 96 and Shay's depiction of heaven on p.106.

7. Consider the passage on p.165 where Maggie thinks "the penitentiary [Shay] was referring to was his own body." In what ways are some of the other characters in this book (Claire, Maggie, Lucius) imprisoned by their bodies?

8. Discuss June's questions on p. 184: "Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish?" How do the characters answer this question?

9. June thinks that if Claire accepted a heart transplant from Shay Bourne and had to absorb the emotional pain of her father's and sister's murders, it would be "better to have no heart at all" (238). This statement eerily echoes Shay's own statement to June that her first daughter, Elizabeth, "was better off dead." How do you feel about the adults in this novel making such grave choices over the life of a child? Do you feel like they are being protective or presumptuous?

10. Why do you think Shay never puts up a real fight for his innocence? Do you believe he is resigned to his fate or is an active participant in choosing it? Has he made the ultimate sacrifice or is he just trying to make the most out of circumstances beyond his control?

11. Does Change of Heart have a hero? If so, who is it?

12. In Change of Heart, religion seems at times to bring characters together and at others to drive a wedge between them. Ultimately, do you think religion unites people or divides them?
(All questions issued by publisher.)

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