Jodi Picoult, “Change of Heart”

Shay Bourne is guilty of murdering a cop and his seven-year-old stepdaughter; ten years later, as he sits on death row, Shay begins to exhibit signs of being a modern-day Jesus. Despite his performance of miracles and his quoting of Gnostic texts, Shay desperately wants redemption. With the help of his mentor and his lawyer, Shay tries to find peace before his execution. Change of Heart is a stunning novel, one that delves into controversial issues without making judgments.

Plot Overview: Faith, Religion and Redemption

Father Michael is a young, attractive, motorcycle-riding priest. 10 years earlier, he was a member of the jury that found Shay guilty. Now, in an attempt to assuage his guilt over the verdict, Father Michael finds a role as Shay’s mentor. As he sees the miraculous acts occurring, Father Michael begins to doubt Shay’s guilt and his own beliefs. In a crisis of faith, he will look to Shay to answer his questions on religion and life.

Maggie Bloom, the atheist daughter of a rabbi, is Shay’s newest lawyer. A funny, charismatic and slightly overweight thirty-something woman, Maggie seems more like Bridget Jones than a successful ACLU lawyer. Although she takes Shay’s case on as a way to fight the death penalty, Maggie will undergo her own test of faith and discover the real meaning of life and death.

June Nealon was pregnant with her second child when Shay killed her husband and daughter; she now faces another life-changing tragedy: her daughter needs a heart transplant. When Shay offers his own heart, which is a perfect match, June must explore her own feelings of hatred and desperation to make a decision that will save or kill her daughter – and the man who destroyed her family.

Criticisms and Compliments

Jodi Picoult’s success does not come from her writing talent, though she is a good storyteller; rather, Picoult’s strength lies in the brilliance of her plots. Change of Heart is a novel that covers not only organ donation, morality and the death penalty, but also the value – or worthlessness – of faith.

Change of Heart asks complicated questions, ones that cannot be easily answered. Picoult is able to present these probing questions on human behavior and religion for one reason: she does not try to answer them. Rather, she merely explores them from a variety of angles. What she provides, then, is not just a story, but a platform for the reader to develop his or her own opinions. Change of Heart is a provocative, must-read book, one that will make the reader question religion, miracles and redemption.


  • Picoult, Jodi. Change of Heart: A Novel. Washington Square Press, 2008 ISBN 9780743496759