Audio Book Review: Change of Heart

 Title: Change of Heart

Author: Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Recorded Books, 2008

# of Discs/Hours: 12 CDs, 15.25 hours

Genre: Fiction

Reason for Reading: My sister gave to me with a promise I would love it.

Book Grade: B+

Audio Book Grade: A+

There’s always going to be bad stuff out there. But here’s the amazing thing — light trumps darkness, every time. You stick a candle into the dark, but you can’t stick the dark into the light.

When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.

There are all sorts of experiences we can’t really put a name to…The birth of a child, for one. Or the death of a parent. Falling in love. Words are like nets–we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, grief, or wonder. Finding God is like that, too. If it’s happened to you, you know what it feels like. But try to describe it to someone else–and language only takes you so far.

That’s what religion does. It points a finger. It causes wars. It breaks apart countries. It’s a petri dish for stereotypes to grow in. Religion’s not about being holy…Just holier-than-thous.

Where Izzybella Discovers Audio Books: North Texas, where I live and work, is a vast sprawling urban landscape connected by a maze-like network of freeways, highways, and county and farm-to-market roads.  City leaders and planners have tried over the years to improve our pathetically small public transit system.  There are bus systems in the major cities, and in the case of Dallas, even a rail system, but aside from one train connecting Fort Worth and Dallas, we don’t have the viable type of public transportation system popular in other urban areas.  What we do have are cars.  And trucks-lots of trucks.  Texans love their vehicles and even for the best innovations in public transportation, as a population, we’re loathe to part from them.  All this translates to gridlock and gridlock, for me anyway, translates to a bad temper and a foul mouth. 

In the midst of a typical rush hour commute I have hurled the kind of invective that would make my father, formerly of the US Navy, cringe.  I have given the classic one-finger salute to many a stranger while attempting to avoid accidents or merely merge on the freeway.  I admit it.  I have behaved badly.  Playing music didn’t help.  The radio didn’t help.  Talk shows were more likely to increase my output of four letter words (go away Mark Levin, your very voice annoys me). 

And then I discovered the audio-book.  Listen ya’ll: you can “READ” while commuting.   Suddenly a traffic jam on I-30 was not an inconvenience.  It was an opportunity to finish Lord of the Rings.  Stuck at the train tracks?  Big deal, because Frodo friggin’ Baggins just bit off Gollum’s finger!!  My foul mouth and bad attitude were checked.  After all, it’s difficult to be upset about my third rotation at an intersection with a much too short green light and a much too long red light, when it means that I get to sneak in another chapter.

So, this means not only do I to get to tell you about a really good book; I also get to tell you about a really great performance, because that’s essentially what a good audio-book is.  The book is Jodi Picoult’s Change of Heart

Blurbage: Can we save ourselves, or do we rely on others to do it? Is what we believe always the truth?

One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.

For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June’s eleven-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.

Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy’s dying wish?

What I liked about the book: I like stories that question strongly held beliefs.  In this case, Picoult uses her characters to examine two controversial subjects: the death penalty and the relevance of religion to personal faith.  I enjoyed the informed arguments about as much as I enjoyed the character interaction.  Picoult uses the most unlikely combination of characters: a murderer on death row who seems to perform miracles, his cell neighbor, an erudite artist slowly dying from AIDS, a hip young Catholic priest, and an ambitious, idealistic, yet entirely insecure ACLU lawyer.  Each takes turns telling the story and each voice is distinctive.  I like hearing stories from multiple viewpoints because I find it interesting how each different person might view the same experience from their unique perspective and background.  The author did a great job balancing the multiple narratives into one cohesive and genuinely compelling tale.

What I disliked about the book: Okay, it was a bit predictable.  I knew certain events would happen moments before they did, and I actually guessed one of the major end-of-story revelations midway in.   Additionally, some of the metaphors were quite obvious and perhaps even a bit heavy-handed.  With a less talented author’s pen, this could have been kind of cheesy.  Jodi Picoult, though?  Fantastic writer.  It worked.

What I liked about the audio performance:  The cast.  When I say that I love hearing a different voice for different characters, I don’t want to sound like I’m denigrating any audio-books with only one reader.  I think Jim Dale is a prime example of how well one reader can hold a listener’s attention.  But the voices for each of the four main characters were perfect and the actors truly invested in the performance.  One of the weaknesses I’d heard about this particular story was that the character of June felt rushed and not very fleshed out.  With the performance of the reader, I didn’t get that at all.  She put so much into it that June was a very real person in my imagination.  I believe the vocal performances in this production upped the total score from a B+ to an A.

What I didn’t like about the audio performance: Nothing.  This was another fantastic production by Recorded Books.

Bottom Line: Worth reading, but you might actually enjoy the audio more.

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About izzybella

Just trying to figure it all out.
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15 Responses to Audio Book Review: Change of Heart

  1. I thought this one was rather good as well when I had listened to it. Glad u enjoyed it as well.

  2. I know which major end-of-story revelation you guessed way ahead of time, because I did too. I wonder, though, is it because it was that obvious, or because of our backgrounds that we guessed it.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m listening to another one now that I think you’ll like, but I’m only on disc 3 of a 22-hour book. 🙂

  3. izzybella says:

    Possible that our backgrounds made it so. But it was also kind of predictable. I haven’t read a lot of reviews on this one, but I’d bet the element of predictability is a common theme. Again, I’m not complaining. This was fantastic and I must immediately go out and find more Jodi Picoult. But there were definitely some faults.

  4. Margot says:

    Excellent sales pitch for audio books. I don’t know why some people don’t consider them “real” books. Often they are better. Now here you are advocating audio books as behavior modifiers and I completely agree with you. Audio books should be one of the tools psychologists use for their patients with road-rage issues.

    I’m not a fan of Jodi Picoult but I like your evaluation of this book. She raises some issues I like exploring. Just maybe . . .

    • izzybella says:

      So true! The thing is, I’m always embarrassed the moment the horrible language leaves my mouth, but it didn’t used to stop me from being incredibly easy to anger on the road. Now, I’m like a little sweet grandma driver who waves kindly at everyone passing by. It’s amazing how much audio books have helped me calm down on the road.

  5. jehara says:

    i love the way you describe texas traffic. it made me smile.
    audio books are a relatively new discovery for me. the narrator really makes all the difference. if i can’t stand their voice then i can’t listen to the book. having said that, there are some audio books i enjoyed immensely just for the narrator. Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdoch. The Prophecy of Sisters. I forget the author but it was narrated by Eliza Dushku. Thirteen Reasons Why was also an excellent audio.

    • izzybella says:

      This! There are a few audiobooks I haven’t been able to finish because the actor voice doesn’t sync up with the character. One of the House of Night audio novels is that way-they suddenly went with a new narrator for some reason, and she just sounds so valley girl-ish. It does not at all work for me.

  6. stacybuckeye says:

    I love audio books and I always love to get recommendations for great ones. Thanks 🙂 I’ve enjoyed the few Picoult books I’ve read.

  7. Bumbles says:

    I have read – via the traditional print route – one Picoult book before – My Sister’s Keeper. I enjoyed it very much but it wore me out emotionally and I haven’t been able to launch myself into her world of tug-of-war-without-winners. I have very strong feelings about both of the themes this book covers – I would probably enjoy it very much. I am not an audio reader. My focus tends to drift. But I do agree with you – the narrator – or team of performers – makes it or breaks it. Excellent review Izzy!

    • izzybella says:

      Thanks, Bumbles. It is enjoyable, but as you said, emotionally wearing. In a way it was nice reading during the commute since it broke it up a bit.

  8. Susan says:

    Thanks for posting a link to your review at Audiobook Jukebox. Really enjoyed your review & look forward to more!

  9. I was never into Jodi Piccoult and just recently I was told to read The Pact. I loved it. Then I read House Rules. I just purchased Nineteen Minutes from my local used book shop. Looking forward to reading that as well. Thanks for this review. Will probably pick this one up as well.

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