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Welcome to Book Talk, the online book discussion of the East Brunswick Public Library. Currently, only patrons of the East Brunswick Public Library will be able to participate in the online discussion. When adding a comment you will be required to enter your library barcode and your pin number. If this is the first time you have participated in an online discussion, please click on the Discussion Guidelines link to learn how to respond to the discussion questions and add comments to our site.

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1 comment - Last on 04/09/2009

April 2009 - Change of Heart

April 01, 2009 By Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult explores the issues of the death penalty, organ donation, religious freedom,and the Messiah in her novel, Change of Heart. Shay Bourne has been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of two people, Elizabeth Nealon and her stepfather, Kurt Nealon, a police officer. Shay's last request as a death row inmate is to donate his heart to Claire Nealon, the sister of the victim. The novel approaches the story from multiple points of view represented by four characters: Lucius,a prison inmate who is dying of AIDS; Michael, a Catholic priest and Shay Bourne's spiritual advisor; Maggie,an ACLU attorney who is determined to help Shay choose the method in which he dies,and June Nealon, the wife and mother of the two people Shay Bourne is convicted of killing. This book is a page turner and will hold your interest until the final surprise.

April 2009 - Change of Heart

Jodi Picoult is known for her issue-oriented novels. She has tackled controversial topics such as domestic abuse in Picture Perfect, euthanasia in Mercy, teen suicide in The Pact: A Love Story, and cloning and gene replacement therapy in the book club favorite, My Sister's Keeper. According to an author interview with Powells Book Review, her motivation for writing Change of Heart was the role that one's religious views has on their position on the big issues, in this case capital punishment, that face our country today.  Picoult studied Creative Writing at Princeton University where she received a B.A. in 1987.  She received a M.Ed. Harvard University in 1990. She is the author of 16 novels, the most recent published in 2009 is Handle With Care about a family struggling to deal with their young daughter’s rare bone disease.

Related Links:

JodiPicoult.com - The website includes Picoult's biography, book info, appearances, photos/videos, author interviews (FAQ's) and more.

Death Penalty Information Center - Formed in 1990, the Death Penalty Information Center is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.


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Question #1: "Change of Heart" is told from the point of view of 4 different characters: Michael, June, Lucius, and Maggie. One reviewer considered the changes in narration to be abrupt. How do you think this helps or hurts the story?

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Question #2: Michael has difficulty making the decision to sentence Shay to death and ultimately succumbs to pressure to vote for the death penalty (see below). How would you handle a similar situation if you were not sure of the defendant's guilt?

"As it turned out, though, it was a lot easier to say that someone deserved to die for what they did than it was to take the responsibility to make that happen." (p. 14).

"I erased my name on the board. Then I took the pen and rewrote it, becoming the twelfth and final juror to sentence Shay Bourne to death." (p. 20).


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Question #3: After Shay Bourne arrives on I-tier, several seemingly miraculous events occur that are similar to miracles performed by Jesus in the New Testament. How are these events perceived by the different characters in the novel?

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Question #4: Where do you stand on the issue of the death penalty. A vivid description of lethal injection is given on pp. 131-132. Has this book changed how you feel?

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