Brief Plot Summary
Four Reasons I Do Not Recommend 'Change of Heart'
June Nealon’s car is hit by a drunk driver, killing her husband. Eventually, she remarries and is expecting a baby with her new husband. Unfortunately, the person they hire to help construct the nursery kills her new husband and four-year-old daughter. Afraid I’ve given too much away? Don’t worry, that’s just what happens in the first ten pages.
Picoult knows how to grip readers and tug at your heartstrings. 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. That’s what Change of Heart felt like.
2. Too Much Rehashing, Too Little Real Development
Picoult’s style is to switch viewpoints (and fonts) from chapter to chapter. The variety of voices keeps her books moving even when there isn’t 400+ pages of plot. While I was reading, it was easy to keep going, which is a plus. 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. The Characters are Caricatures
For a book that relies so heavily on voice to keep the pages turning, the characters were surprisingly unlikable and under-developed.
Though Picoult writes fiction, it is no secret that she chooses controversial topics that make people ask hard questions. 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. 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). This is one of many places where information about the Gnostic gospels is misleading. 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. Although that may sound “equally ancient,” if you think about it in modern terms, it becomes clear that someone who wrote a firsthand account of the Civil War 40 years after it happened would have much more credibility than someone claiming to write a firsthand account today.
While I think a plot that encourages readers to question the basis of their religious beliefs is an excellent idea, it angered me that Picoult built this plot by having the characters who were religious experts make inaccurate and misleading statements about church history.