Change of Heart (novel)

Change of Heart

Hardcover USA edition
Author Jodi Picoult
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
4 March 2008
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 447
ISBN 978-0-7434-9674-2
OCLC 166373133
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3566.I372 C47 2008

Change of Heart is a novel by Jodi Picoult published in 2008.

Plot Summary


A man is killed by a drunk driver, leaving his wife June and his daughter Elizabeth behind. At the scene of the accident, June meets a police officer named Kurt Nealon, who becomes a close friend and later marries June. Years later, June is pregnant and Kurt plans to create an addition to their home. A young man named Shay Bourne offers to help with the addition, which June says is "the beginning of the end."

The trial

Elizabeth and Kurt are found murdered, and Shay is identified as the only suspect. The case and his trial become a media sensation. The jury convicts Shay of two counts of capital murder. The jury deliberates on the death penalty. After much time, they all agree, with Michael Wright, a young man about Shay's age, being the last juror to agree on the death penalty after being coerced by other jury members.

Eleven Years later

Shay Bourne is transferred to the I-tier at the Concord state prison. Shay is in the cell next to Lucius DuFresne, an artist. During the night Shay tells Lucius that he wants to donate his heart to a little girl he saw on TV. She is revealed to be the daughter of June and the late Kurt, Claire, who has a terminal heart condition.

June agrees to meet Shay in a restorative justice meeting. There she asks him, "Why did you do it?" Shay answers, "She was better off dead." June agrees to take Shay's heart out of spite. A lawyer, Maggie, starts the legal process to petition the commissioner of corrections to allow Shay to be hanged so his heart can be donated to Claire. Claire's doctor determines that Shay is a perfect heart transplant match.'.

Maggie arranges a dinner meeting with Dr. Gallagher to discuss organ donation for Shay. June sneaks Dudley (a spaniel) into the hospital to make Claire feel better; and a nurse reveals the upcoming transplant, which June has not discussed yet with Claire.

Shay's trial begins, and Father Michael testifies to the prisoner's religious belief that he needs to donate his heart to Clarie to obtain redemption. Father Michael uses Shay's quotations from the Gnostic gospels as his religious foundation. Ian Fletcher testifies as an expert on the Gnostic Gospels. Father Michael admits to Shay that he was on the jury that convicted him. Father Michael locates Shay's sister, Grace, and tries to convince her to forgive Shay for setting the fire that disfigured her face. Grace started the fire in an attempt to kill their abusive father. Shay took the blame to protect his sister. While Shay testifies, all of his chains fall away from him for no apparent reason.

It is later revealed that Kurt was sexually abusing Elizabeth. At the time of the murders, Shay walked in on them. He killed Kurt, who had shot Elizabeth accidentally instead of Shay.


Three weeks after her surgery, Claire goes home, where Grace visits her. Claire sees that her dog Dudley has died in her room but, when she picks him up and holds him to her chest, his heart starts beating again.



Change of Heart is written such that each chapter is from the point of view of one of the characters, either Maggie, Michael, Lucius, or June. According to Picoult, it was set up like the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The overall concept of the book; namely the prisoner's supernatural abilities, bunkmates, bringing a dead back to life, healing etc. seem to be similar to The Green Mile (1996), by Stephen King. One of the inmates nicknames Bourne as "Green Mile."

Literary significance and reception

Publishers Weekly in their review said that "Picoult bangs out another ripped-from-the-zeitgeist winner. 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." It also says that "The point-of-view switches are abrupt, but this is a small flaw in an impressive book", however, others say that the different viewpoints of the characters provide valuable insight to the story for the reader and abruptness is inevitable.[1]

Donna Seaman reviewing in Booklist writes, it is "a compulsively readable saga and dramatic critique of capital punishment". She compares Change of Heart to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Describing the novel as "Laced with intriguing musings on the Gnostic Gospels, Picoult's bold story of loss, justice, redemption, and faith reminds us how tragically truth can be concealed and denied."[2]

Janet Maslin writing for the New York Times had several criticisms about the book. She wrote that Picoult wrote the novel on "authorial autopilot", as it has the "subtlety of a jackhammer" and was made needlessly long by scenes such as Maggie chatting with her pet rabbit. She says that June Nealon is "a wet hankie of a character, full of grief and anger, but otherwise lacking any distinguishing characteristics." She felt that Jodi Picoult missed her own chance at redemption, "had Change of Heart culminated in revelations that were truly plausible or unexpected, its vapidity might have been transcended. But there is no substance to the story's last surprises."[3]

In terms of public reception, Change of Heart debuted as number one on the New York Times Fiction bestseller list.[4] It remained at the number one position for two additional weeks,[5] before being knocked from the number one position on April 13, 2008 by Jonathan Kellerman's Compulsion.[6]

Film adaption

On December 13, 2011 Paramount Pictures announced their plan to produce a film based on the novel. On December 26, 2011 it was confirmed that Paramount Pictures had obtained the film rights to the novel and MTV Films was lined up to co-produce. Peter Jackson, the director of Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones, is slated to direct the film adaption with Fran Walsh writing the screenplay. In an interview on January 8, 2012 the senior president of MTV Films stated that they are no longer involved with the project.

On January 13, 2012 Paramount Pictures announced that the first actor to be cast was Sean Bean who will play the role of Shay Bourne. Selena Gomez was the first choice for the role of Claire Nealon but she turned down the project, Dakota Fanning was cast instead. On January 19, 2012 Rachel Weisz and Scott Porter signed to play as June and Kurt Nealon. On January 20, 2012 Screen Gems Production asked to co-produce the film in place of MTV Films.

On January 26, 2012 author, singer-actress Hilary Duff expressed her interest in the film.

Publication history

See also


  1. "Change of Heart". Publishers Weekly; 1/21/2008, Vol. 255 Issue 3, p151. Vol. 255 (Issue 3). 2008-01-21. p. 151. ISSN 0000-0019.
  2. Seaman, Donna (2008-01-01). "Change of Heart". Booklist. Vol. 104 (Issue 9/10). pp. 21–22. ISSN 0006-7385.
  3. Janet Maslin (2008-03-24). "Jodi Picoult - Change of Heart - Books - Review - New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  4. "BEST SELLERS: FICTION: Sunday, March 23, 2008 – New York Times". The New York Times. 2008-03-23. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  5. "BEST SELLERS: FICTION: Sunday, April 6, 2008 – New York Times". The New York Times. 2008-04-06. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  6. Garner, Dwight (2008-04-13). "TBR - Inside the List - Books - Review - New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
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