Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Hodder & Stoughton

JESUS is back with us in the new Jodi Picoult novel. Gnostic-gospel-quoting handyman Shay Bourne kills pregnant June Nealon's policeman husband and her little girl.

When June later gives birth, her daughter, Claire, has a heart defect. If she doesn't get a heart soon, she'll die.

Shay is tried and sentenced to death. Then a civil rights lawyer contacts him, seeking to use his case to fight the death penalty.

Shay doesn't want to appeal the death, but he wants to change the sentence. He wants to die in such a way that his heart can be given to Claire - the daughter and half-sister of his two victims.

Jodi Picoult has returned to old themes and methods here. For those who have never read her books, this will be a pageturner. For those who have, it won't have many surprises.

The story is told, in typical Picoult style, by a series of characters with different angles.

Michael, the priest who is Shay's confidant, has not told Shay that he was one of the jurors who sentenced him to death.

Maggie, a plump, sad Jewish lawyer with mother problems, faces the ethical dilemma of whether helping Shay to be hanged rather than lethally injected will work towards the end of the death penalty. (Hello? No!)

Lucius, an Aids-infected killer, becomes convinced that Shay is the new Messiah, as are Michael and a riotous crowd of miracle-seekers who congregate outside the jail.

This is not Picoult's best book by a long haul - but the story rackets along nicely. A good airport book.

Xxxx stars

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