Saturday, 7 April 2012

Review: Change of Heart

Title: Change of Heart
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria International
Country: United States of America
Pages: 590
Genre: Literary fiction

This was my first Picoult, so I hadn't expected anything other than some satisfying read given the hype over her name. After I finished reading, I felt strangely drained. I can't say if it's a positive or a negative feeling. It's like when you're going about your daily business then something extraordinary happens at a lightning speed and in a fraction of second it disappears again. You're left puzzled, half-aware but still not sure what has just taken place. It is that same feeling after Change of Heart.

First, like I said, this book drains you. You can go read the summary anywhere online but I can assure you, it offers a lot more than just the intense waiting experience for someone to be executed. Picoult touches the subjects of justice, religion, mother-and-daughter relationship, redemption, friendship, miracle, and even romantic love, a bit. I can tell she's done her homework well, as she manages to describe some rather obscure knowledge like how to build a gallows. So much information in one small book, for the good or for the ill.

Secondly, I want to highlight a few things of note:

1) Picoult is superb at writing multiple POVs. In Change of Heart, everyone is important. Five characters are given the special chance to speak their views first-hand. But even other characters still have something to say and to add substantially to the plot.

2) The ultimate revelation is revealed near the very end of the book. This, I think, is a clever move by Picoult; it adds the atmosphere of a Greek tragedy: the end is irreversible, unavoidable, even though the truth is now openly known.

3) Throughout the story, the author manages to stay in the background and let her characters speak. I can see that to Picoult, her job is only to ask "What if?". I don't see any one ideal or concept or religion being upheld higher than the others. This is good because it makes you think, and it opens your mind, but it is also dangerous since it can lead to relativistic values.

I give the book 3 stars out of 5 because it is enjoyable and is such a thoughtfully written piece, and yet it must be read carefully. If any person of faith is about to read the book, be prepared to ask questions that you might never imagine you'd ask.

This review is also available on Goodreads.

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