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Brief Plot SummaryJune Nealon’s daughter needs a heart transplant, and the man on death row for killing the rest of her family wants to donate his.
Whenever I am finding it difficult to concentrate on fiction, particularly when I want to get myself lost in a book, I will often turn back to Jodi Picoult.
Change of Heart, is no different, except that it has echoes of The Green Mile, by Stephen King. The style of writing adopted by Jodi Picoult works for her, but at times I found myself getting cross at the constant switching between one character-led chapter and another.
I am also reading more nonfiction than previously, altho not at the same volume as the lit lite.
Re this book, the topic does not sound appealing, and I probably couldn’t read it for that reason. I too am a follower of Jodi Picoult books but recently there has been a dearth of them in the library, and no being a fan of Kindles this led m to look for new authors.
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Featuring practical tips and tools, inspirational quotes, and journal pages so you can capture your thoughts and experiences. Change of Heart looks at the nature of organized religion and belief, and takes the reader behind the closely drawn curtains of America’s death penalty. Listen to the story behind the story of Change of Heart - including a visit to death row and facts about the Gnostic Gospels.
Change Of Heart looks at the nature of organized religion and belief, and takes the reader behind the closely drawn curtains of America’s death penalty. Clearly, I needed to see a working death row – so I scheduled a visit to Arizona to see the facilities and to talk to a death row inmate face to face. Finally, she told me about Debra Milke, a woman who told her four year old son that they were going to see Santa. The warden said yes – not because she thought Milke was innocent, but because she was a Catholic and someone had to pray for her soul. The warden comes in and reads the legal document stipulating the death penalty for the inmate.
What this means, basically, is that the amount of time between the administration of the sodium pentathol and the potassium chloride is NOT usually enough to put the inmate to sleep – and this is why the Supreme Court is debating whether or not lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. I was writing so fast and furious as the warden was giving me this information that at one point I spread out on a horizontal surface – and then freaked out a little when I realized I was sprawled across the lethal injection table.
I had to fly back a second time to Arizona to visit a death row inmate – a man named Robert Towery. The best argument I’ve heard to explain the death penalty comes from another author, Scott Turow.
It was this focus on the differences between people, instead of the commonalities, that led to the second branch of research for CHANGE OF HEART – namely, the history of religion. According to the Gnostic Christians, you didn’t need a priest to help you find God, because you were already a PART of God. You can imagine how threatening the beliefs of the Gnostic Christians were to the early Christian church, which was trying to unify itself. To be honest, if Iraneus HADN’T done this, Christianity would probably have died out in a mess of infighting. Michael says it is easier to say someone deserves to die for what they did than it is to take the responsibility to make that happen. Why were all the inmates on I-tier energized by Shay’s attempt to die on his own terms? Shay finally tells Michael what really happened to Elizabeth and Kurt Nealon on the night they died? Rumor had it that in fact, the prison did have a pair of death row cells – not too far from my own humble abode in the Secure Housing Unit on I-tier.
There were eight cells in I-tier, each holding such distinct personalities that to me it sometimes seemed a miracle the steel bars could contain them.
The COs passed by the shower stall, shuffled by Joey and Calloway, and then paused right in front of my cell, so I could get a good look. I heard the door of the cell beside mine slide shut; the clink of chains as Shay stuck his hands through the trap to have his cuffs removed. There was the sound of a television being turned on, and then Shay must have plugged in the headphones that we were all required to have, so we didn’t have a volume war with each other.
As Calloway and Crash united (as they often did) to humiliate me, I pulled out my own set of headphones and turned on my television. I was an artist by vocation, and now, by avocation – although it was considerably more challenging to get my supplies in a place like this.
Distracted, I walked to the front of my cell, to see who he was having a conversation with at this hour of night.
Before I could respond, there was a loud crash and the thud of flesh smacking against the concrete floor. The others started to wake up, cursing me out for disturbing their rest, and then falling silent with fascination.
The EMTs had pushed an oxygen mask over Shay’s mouth that frosted with each breath he took. When Shay Bourne returned to I-tier after three days in the hospital infirmary, he was a man with a mission. We all had forgotten what it was like to care about something so much that you might not be able to stand losing it. Shay’s hands slipped through the trap of the shower cell to be cuffed, and then the door was opened.
He finished locking Shay up again, then took one out of his pocket and stuffed it into the trap of my cell. I leaned the ticket up against the wall of the cell and wrote in pencil, signed Shay’s name. By now, everyone else on the pod realized that there had been some snafu with the plumbing.
I wish I could tell you more about what happened, but the sad fact is that I’m as fallible as the next man, and free alcohol is free alcohol. That night when I woke up with the sweats, my heart drilling through the spongy base of my throat, Shay was talking to himself again.
There were many reasons I loved Oliver, but first and foremost was that my mother couldn’t stand him. Someone was a doctor, like the anesthesiologist from Dartmouth Hitchcock they’d set me up with once, who asked me if I thought laws against downloading child porn were an infringement on civil rights. I pulled on my jeans, the ones that I admittedly didn’t wash very often because the dryer shrank them just enough that I had to suffer half a day before the denim stretched to the point of comfort again. He followed me into the kitchen, where I poured us both bowls of rabbit food (his literal, mine Special K). The biggest single annual contributor to my father’s temple fund was the ChutZpah, a wellness retreat for the mind, body and soul in the heart of Lynley that was run by my mother.
The first Saturday of every month, I drove to the spa for a free massage or facial or pedicure.
I forced myself to close my eyes and remember that being washed beneath a Vichy shower by someone else was supposed to make me feel like a queen, instead of a hospitalized invalid.
They: the establishment, the lawmakers, the ones assuaging their guilt over their own actions with rhetoric. During the day, Batman the Robin resided in his breast pocket, a small lump no bigger than a pack of Starburst candies. At that moment the door to I-tier opened, admitting a pair of officers in flak jackets and helmets. I could not see what was going on in Calloway’s cell, but I had a pretty good idea based on his reactions.
The sound that Calloway Reece made was primordial, bloodcurdling; but then maybe that was always the case when a grown man with no heart started to cry. Shay sent out his own line of string, with a weight made of a regulation comb on one end, and reel in the bundle I fished out to him.
If you’re a mother, you can look into the face of your grown child and see, instead, the one that peeked up at you from the folds of a baby blanket. There were a hundred answers to that, but the one that floated to the top of my mind was that in some other hospital, two counties away, another mother had to say goodbye to her child so that I would have a chance to keep mine.
On the first day of fifth grade, Claire told me it felt like she had swallowed a hummingbird.
For the past six hours, Claire had been poked, pricked, scrubbed, and prepped so that the minute the miracle organ arrived in its little Igloo cooler, she could go straight into surgery. As fans will know, her books tend to the formulaic, but there is always a twist that makes the reader truly gasp at the end. Looking at some of the reviews I was not surprised to find that some readers have been cross with Picoult – she is usually so original. However, as I stated at the beginning of the review I was deliberately turning to a tried and tested author to help get over Christmas fiction block. Unauthorized reselling or free distribution of any of this content will be subject to prosecution under the rules of United States Code, Title 17, Chapter 5. 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…An impressive book. Featuring the return of Ian Fletcher from Keeping Faith, it also asks whether religion and politics truly are separate in this country, or inextricably tangled.


They call in a priest to talk some sense into Shay about what redemption really is – and the priest arrives just as Shay begins performing miracles.
I was halfway across the country on a plane when my visit was cancelled – apparently, they decided I was the WRONG kind of media. He dressed up in his Halloween costume and she drove him into the desert, where they were met by the hit men she’d hired to kill him for insurance money. The man returned with a huge book full of the statutes and procedures used to execute someone in the state of AZ.
She’d seen feeble old men executed, because it took so long for the system to run its course. Everyone knows which gospels made it into the Bible, but very few people realize that there was a history behind that editorial decision. There were tons of groups calling themselves Christian, and all believing different things. Iraneus, the bishop of Lyons, decided he’d had enough, and set about standardizing the Christian faith. More than ever, I think it’s important to put the history back into the story of religion. Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you loved?
Wu says what makes a heart worthy for transplant has nothing to do with the donor’s personality.
Given what you now know about them, does this change your opinion of the New Testament in any way? Shay Bourne was small and slight, with close-cropped brown hair and eyes like the sea in the Caribbean. Even the polite ones like the eighty year old missionary who comes to bring us pamphlets once a month always does a double-take, as if I look even worse than he remembers.
I was a little surprised that a death row prisoner would have been able to purchase a television from the canteen, same as us. It was a crime of passion – the only issue is that I focused on the passion part and the courts focused on the crime. My last CD4+ was taken three months ago, and I was down to 75 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. Where I had once favored Windsor-Newton oils and red sable brushes, linen canvases I stretched myself and coated with gesso; I now used whatever I could get my hands on. I’d used a shank to shave a picture of a coal mine in a National Geographic, and added a dab of shampoo to make the chalky paint. I was soaked through by the time I woke up, and after I stripped off my sheets and my scrubs, I didn’t want to lie down on the mattress again.
I may not have been handed down the same sentence as Shay Bourne, but like him, I would die within the walls of this prison – sooner, rather than later. Although I used to be a PBS snob, I now found myself watching the shows the rest of the philistines in here enjoyed.
Every morning, when the officers came to poll us to see who wanted a shower or time in the yard, Shay would ask if he could speak to Warden Coyne. The first year I was in here, I used to pretend that the full moon was my pet; that it came once a month just to me. A moment later the doors buzzed open; they stood in front of the shower cell waiting for Shay to stick his hands through the trap to be cuffed for the twenty foot journey back to his own cell.
I tied the note to the end of my own fishing line and swung it beneath the narrow opening of his cell door. The bad news about this was that you literally could not get away from the shit brought down by the others around you.
Or the son of the cantor, who actually had been in a monogamous gay relationship for five years but hadn’t told his parents yet.
Which is why, the minute I stepped on the scale that morning, he hopped out from underneath the bed where he was diligently severing the cord of my alarm clock with his teeth, and settled himself squarely on top of my feet so that I couldn’t see the digital readout. But I would, one day, or so I told my mother the fitness queen, as soon as all the people on whose behalf I worked tirelessly were absolutely, unequivocally rescued.
Then he hopped off to the litter box beside his cage, where he’d spend the day sleeping. I had used nearly all my savings last year to buy the hybrid -- to be honest, I didn’t understand why car manufacturers charged a premium if you were a buyer with a modicum of social conscience. The catch was that there was no Temple Beth Or: his reform congregation held Friday night services in the cafeteria of the middle school, because the original temple had burned to the ground. Although her clientele was non-denominational, she’d garnered a word-of-mouth reputation among temple sisterhoods, and patrons came from as far away as New York and Connecticut and even Maryland to relax and rejuvenate.
Locker 220 was in a bank with fifty others, and several toned middle-age women were stripping out of their yoga clothes.
I could recall seeing something to that effect buried in the local paper, but I didn’t remember anything about the case. They marched to Calloway’s cell and cuffed him, then brought him onto the catwalk and secured the handcuffs to a metal railing along the far wall. In here, all we had were our belongings, and having them pored over and inspected was a gross invasion of privacy. He rolled his eyes as his blanket was checked for unraveled threads; his jaw tensed when a postage stamp was peeled off an envelope, revealing the black tar heroin underneath. He picked through the tissues, and when he didn’t find anything he confiscated the book with its carved hidey-hole. It was still featherless and half-cooked, its closed eye translucent blue; veins thinly veiled beneath its onion-skin like a road map of life. With an artist’s eye, I like to picture Shay sitting on his bunk, cupping his palms around the tiny bird. You can watch your twelve year old daughter painting her nails with glitter polish and remember how she used to reach for you when she wanted to cross the street.
She got tired more easily than other infants, but I was still moving in slow motion myself, and did not notice. I assumed it was nerves about starting classes, but hours later -- when she stood up to solve a math problem at the chalkboard -- she passed out cold. You didn’t want to wait so long for a transplant that the rest of the bodily systems began to shut down.
At this stage of life, however, I have at least reached the point if a book doesn’t engage me right away, out it goes, or off my kindle. But then Bourne begins to perform miracles at the prison that are witnessed by officers, fellow inmates, and even Father Michael – and the media begins to call him a messiah.
But right now in America, it feels to me like the country’s being broken apart on the fault line of religion.
I found myself banging on the door of the prison – instead of having trouble getting out, I couldn’t manage to get IN! She was sentenced to death, and told the warden that no one in her family spoke to her anymore.
In 1945, two brothers were digging for fertilizer in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, when they found an earthenware jug filled with leatherbound texts. By getting rid of those Gnostic texts, Christians also dismissed the belief that people might reach spiritual enlightenment in a bunch of ways – not just one RIGHT way. Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy’s dying wish? But Shay Bourne just met my gaze and nodded at me, as if I were no different than anyone else. It would have been a thirteen inch one, specially made for us wards of the state by Zenith, with a clear plastic shell around its guts and cathodes, so that the COs would be able to tell if you were extracting parts to make weapons. The camera zeroed in on a girl with fairytale blond hair and blue half-moons beneath her eyes, just the kind of child they’d televise to get you to open up your wallet.
But I ask you, what would you have done, if the love of your life found a new love of his life – someone younger, thinner, better looking?
Someone without HIV would have a normal T-cell count of a thousand cells or more, but the virus becomes part of these white blood cells. I had my nephews draw me pictures on card stock in pencil that I erased, so that I could use the paper over again. Even if I do, I find myself getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom – as little as I eat these days, food passes through me at lightning speed.
We were addicted to the Red Sox and the Patriots; we kept meticulous score of their league standings depending on the time of year, and we debated the fairness of umpire and ref calls as if they were law and we were Supreme Court judges.
But now, I realized that it looked a lot like the table Shay would one day be strapped onto, for his lethal injection.
He cast into the center of the catwalk – risky behavior, since the COs would be back any minute. And this past summer, Crash had taken to spreading jam on the louvers of his vent to cultivate a colony of bees, but that was less about husbandry than his misguided belief that he could train them to swarm Joey in his sleep. And Calloway challenging Shay to a chugging contest, but Shay saying he would sit that one out.
I slipped my hand beneath my door, angling the mirror so I could see into Shay’s house.
I told her (and anyone else who’d listen) that the whole reason the ACLU existed was to help people take a stand. It didn’t have all-wheel drive, which was a real pain in the neck during a New Hampshire winter, but I figured that sliding off the road occasionally was worth saving the ozone layer. The expectation had been to raise funds for a new temple, but my father had underestimated the size of his rural New Hampshire congregation, and although he assured me that they were closing in on buying land somewhere, I didn’t see it happening anytime soon.


I have no idea how my mother kept the place so clean, given that when I was growing up, the house was always comfortably cluttered. I breezed into another section of lockers, one that was blissfully empty, and changed into my robe.
Calloway, who usually played chess with me about this time of day, was playing with Shay instead.
At other times, he kept Batman in a paperback copy of The Stand that had been doctored as a hiding place – starting on chapter six, a square had been cut out of the pages of the thick book with a pilfered razor blade, creating a little hollow that Calloway lined with tissues to make a bed for the bird. I wondered if either of them would notice if I happened to steal a crumb or two for myself.
Not to mention the fact that when it happened, you had an excellent chance of losing your best stash, be that drugs or hooch or chocolate or my art supplies or the stinger I rigged from paper clips to heat up my instant coffee. They’d roll deodorant sticks all the way out, to make sure nothing was hidden underneath. As soon as he was released back into his cell, he ran to the rear corner where the bird had been flung.
One wing was bent at a severe backward angle; its neck lolled sideways, so that I could stroke its fragile throat. I imagine the touch of someone who loves you so much, he cannot bear to watch you sleep; and so you wake up with his hand on your heart.
It wasn’t until she was five, hospitalized with a flu she could not shake, that she was diagnosed.
We had both heard numerous doctors explain the risks and the rewards; we knew how infrequently pediatric donors came about. It is Emotionally ManipulativeJune Nealon’s car is hit by a drunk driver, killing her husband.
On the other hand, I never really wondered what was going to happen after I put the book down because the reality was that there was not much plot development, just a lot of soul-searching characters working through the inevitable.3.
Some of the meanderings down the Gnostic Gospels felt a bit heavy, but I did have the advantage of having read some of them at university. According to polls, 70% of Americans support it, but that number drops to 50% if the choice is between death or life imprisonment without parole.
The FBI Uniform Crime Report in 2004 showed that the South had the highest murder rate, even though it accounts for 80% of all executions. They burned some for firewood…and the rest made their way to scholars, who identified them as the Gnostic Gospels.
To that end, you should always be asking questions about faith, instead of believing what you were told. Isn’t it fascinating to think about what the world might look like today, if Iraneus had chosen a Gnostic gospel, instead of the Gospel of John?
The screen flickered, as if it was resetting to channel 22, but channel 22 looked just like channel 3 and channel 5 and CNN and the Food Network. Sometimes, like us, our teams had their hopes dashed; other times we got to share their Super Bowl.
By now, anyway, his congregation had grown used to readings from the Torah that were routinely punctuated by the cheers of the audience at the basketball game in the gymnasium down the hall. If someone complained because I was using Locker 664 instead, I didn’t think my mother would disown me. Was it just me, or was there a great deal that spa treatments had in common with prostitution? The bird ate mashed potatoes; Calloway traded precious masking tape and twine and even a homemade handcuff key for our own portions. I looked for the small bulge in his breast pocket that would have been the bird, and realized that Batman the Robin was somewhere inside that cell. So this is what death looked like, when you held it in your hand: ugly and undone and real. I looked at the fan of her angel hair on the pillow, the faint blue cast of her skin, the fairy-light bones of a girl whose body was still too much for her to handle. The Characters are CaricaturesFor a book that relies so heavily on voice to keep the pages turning, the characters were surprisingly unlikable and under-developed.4.
The legal conundrum here is that for the first time in 69 years there is to be a state execution and the criminal decides he wants to make restitution by donating his heart to a relative of the family he decimated.
Instead, it comes verbatim from a real, ancient gospel that was rejected as heresy by the Church, and excluded from the Bible. In New Hampshire, where I live, the death penalty is on the books but hasn’t been used since 1939. In fact, of all the people I met who worked there, not a single one actually advocated the death penalty.
We have kept up a pen pal relationship, where he asks me about my kids or talks to me about the plots of Lost and Grey’s Anatomy.
They followed multiple gospels which preached this secret teaching, including one I particularly like, the Gospel of Thomas.
I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror every day and be reminded of a place I would never have the opportunity to see again. As the immune system gets weak, the more likely I am to get sick, or to develop an opportunistic infection, like PCP, toxoplasmosis, CMV.
Tonight I had been working on a portrait of Adam, drawn of course from memory, because that was all I had left.
God only knew why a bird would make a nest in a hellhole like this, but one had a few months back, after flying in through the exercise yard.
For all that he was a racist bigot, Calloway was also the best chess player I’d ever met.
They’d sniff inside shampoo bottles, open our letters and take out the letters inside. Wu said that Claire had a slight arrhythmia which might improve and might not; he put her on Captopril, Lasix, Digoxin. Wu said, fifteen years from now, we might be able to buy a heart off a shelf and have it installed at Best Buy…the idea was to keep Claire alive long enough to let medical innovation catch up to her. Unfortunately, the person they hire to help construct the nursery kills her new husband and four-year-old daughter. The Information about the Gnostic Gospels is MisleadingThough Picoult writes fiction, it is no secret that she chooses controversial topics that make people ask hard questions. This produces all sorts of ethical and practical problems which the author explores with her usual thoroughness. And the priest begins to think: People are always finding God in prison – but what if He was already there? He is an accomplished artist who makes his paints from the pigments of shells of Skittles and M&Ms, or from diluting coffee and ink on the pages of magazines. Well, it differs from state to state, but in Texas, for example, it costs three times more to execute a man than it does to imprison him for forty years, mostly due to the judicial appeal process. As he was escorted in by a phalanx of six correctional officers wearing helmets and flak jackets and face shields, we came forward to the front of our cells, pressed up against the Plexiglas in our doors to better see. They’d rip off our bedsheets and run their hands over the mattresses, looking for tears or ripped seams. There was a camp that attributed its onset to myocarditis and other viral infections during infancy; and another that claimed it was inherited through a parent who was a carrier of the defective gene. She had surgery to implant an AICD – a tiny, internal ER resting right on her heart, which would fix future arrhythmias by administering an electric shock.
She acknowledges researching her topics before writing, so when the characters in her novels who are “experts” rant about this or that, I expect their arguments to be a credible representation of a certain viewpoint.In Change of Heart, Picoult’s characters encounter the Gospel of Thomas, one of the “Gnostic gospels” that is not included in the Bible. So I begged to be taken to the execution chamber, which in Arizona is called the Death House.
It gave information about how to find a vein for lethal injection in difficult situations – like in between the toes, or in the groin.
Don’t worry, that’s just what happens in the first ten pages.Picoult knows how to grip readers and tug at your heartstrings. One character, a priest, has his faith shaken when he realizes there is a fifth “gospel that hadn’t made it into the Bible but was equally as ancient” (220). What seems to matter more than the race of the inmate is the race of the victim – if a victim is white there is more likelihood of a capital murder conviction.
The thing is, I don’t like made-for-TV movies that are ridiculously sad and were obviously written to give women an excuse for having a good cry.
Plus, only certain murders qualify for capital punishment – suggesting that the legal system thinks some deaths are more awful than others. The scholarly consensus is that the four gospels that are included in the Bible were written between 70 and 100 AD, and that the Gospel of Thomas was written no earlier than 175 AD.
I was flicking the microphone switch outside the gas chamber when a woman came up and asked me what I was doing. There are three officers who serve as the executioners behind a wall, holding hypodermic needles. The IV line that runs into the inmate’s vein splits into three separate lines, each attached to one of these hypodermic needles. If you are a member of the Pi-Cult (her fan club), you will probably enjoy Change of Heart.



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