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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 1 ñòðàíèöà
NEW YORK LONDON TORONTO SYDNEY
A T R I A BOOKS
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2008 by Jodi Picoult
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thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Atria Books Subsidiary
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First Atria Books hardcover edition March 2008
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Picoult, Jodi, 1966-
Change of heart: a novel / by Jodi Picoult.—1st Atria Books hardcover ed.
1. Murderers—Fiction. 2. Transplantation of organs, tissues, etc.—Fiction. 3.
Repentance—Fiction. I. Title.
With love, and too much admiration to fit on these pages
To my grandfather, Hal Friend, who has
always been brave enough to question what we believe . ..
And to my grandmother, Bess Friend,
who has never stopped believing in me.
Writing this book was its own form of miracle; it's very hard to
write about religion responsibly, and that means taking the time to
find the right people to answer your questions. For their time and
their knowledge, I must thank Lori Thompson, Rabbi Lina Zerbarini,
Father Peter Duganscik, Jon Saltzman, Katie Desmond, Claire
Demarais, and Pastor Ted Brayman. Marjorie Rose and Joan Collison
were willing to theorize about religion whenever I brought it
up. Elaine Pagels is a brilliant author herself and one of the smartest
women I've ever spoken with—I chased her down and begged
her for a private tutorial on the Gnostic Gospels, one of her academic
specialties, and would hang up the phone after each conversation
with my mind buzzing and a thousand more questions
to explore—surely something the Gnostics would have heartily
Jennifer Sternick is still the attorney I'd want fighting for me,
no matter what, Chris Keating provides legal information for me
at blistering speed, and Chris Johnson's expertise on the appeals
process for death penalty cases was invaluable.
Thanks to the medical team that didn't mind when I asked
how to kill someone, instead of how to save them—among other
things: Dr. Paul Kispert, Dr. Elizabeth Martin, Dr. David Axelrod,
Dr. Vijay Thadani, Dr. Jeffrey Parsonnet, Dr. Mary Kay Wolfson,
Barb Danson, James Belanger. Jacquelyn Mitchard isn't a doc, but
a wonderful writer who gave me the nuts and bolts of LD kids.
And a special thank-you to Dr. Jenna Hirsch, who was so generous
with her knowledge of cardiac surgery.
Thanks to Sindy Buzzell, and Kurt Feuer, for their individual
expertise. Getting to death row was a significant challenge. My
New Hampshire law enforcement contacts included Police Chief
Nick Giaccone, Captain Frank Moran, Kim Lacasse, Unit Manager
Tim Moquin, Lieutenant Chris Shaw, and Jeff Lyons, PIO of the
New Hampshire State Prison. For finessing my trip to the Arizona
State Prison Florence, thanks to Sergeant Janice Mallaburn, Deputy
Warden Steve Gal, CO II Dwight Gaines, and Judy Frigo (former
warden). Thanks also to Rachel Gross and Dale Baich. However,
this book would not be what it was without the prisoners who
opened up to me both in person and via mail: Robert Purtell, a
former death row inmate; Samuel Randolph, currently on death
row in Pennsylvania; and Robert Towery, currently on death row
Thanks to my dream team at Atria: Carolyn Reidy, Judith Curr,
David Brown, Danielle Lynn, Mellony Torres, Kathleen Schmidt,
Sarah Branham, Laura Stern, Gary Urda, Lisa Keim, Christine
Duplessis, and everyone else who has worked so hard on my
behalf. Thanks to Camille McDuffie—who was so determined to
make people stop asking "Jodi Who?" and who exceeded my expectations
beyond my wildest dreams. To my favorite first reader,
Jane Picoult, who I was fortunate enough to get as a mom. To
Laura Gross, without whom I'd be completely adrift. To Emily
Bestler, who is just so damn good at making me look brilliant.
And of course, thanks to Kyle, Jake, Sammy—who keep me
asking the questions that might make the world a better place—
and Tim, who makes it possible for me to do that. It just doesn't
get better than all of you, all of this.
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't
believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had as much practice," said the
Queen. "When I was your age I did it for half an hour a day.
Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible
things before breakfast."
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
In the beginning, I believed in second chances. How else could I
account for the fact that years ago, right after the accident—when
the smoke cleared and the car had stopped tumbling end over end
to rest upside down in a ditch—I was still alive; I could hear Elizabeth,
my little girl, crying? The police officer who had pulled me
out of the car rode with me to the hospital to have my broken leg
set, with Elizabeth—completely unhurt, a miracle—sitting on his
lap the whole time. He'd held my hand when I was taken to identify
my husband Jack's body. He came to the funeral. He showed
up at my door to personally inform me when the drunk driver
who ran us off the road was arrested.
The policeman's name was Kurt Nealon. Long after the trial
and the conviction, he kept coming around just to make sure that
Elizabeth and I were all right. He brought toys for her birthday
and Christmas. He fixed the clogged drain in the upstairs bathroom.
He came over after he was off duty to mow the savannah
that had once been our lawn.
I had married Jack because he was the love of my life; I had
planned to be with him forever. But that was before the definition
of forever was changed by a man with a blood alcohol level of .22.
I was surprised that Kurt seemed to understand that you might
never love someone as hard as you had the first time you'd fallen;
I was even more surprised to learn that maybe you could.
Five years later, when Kurt and I found out we were going to
have a baby, I almost regretted it—the same way you stand beneath
a perfect blue sky on the most glorious day of the summer and
admit to yourself that all moments from here on in couldn't possibly
measure up. Elizabeth had been two when Jack died; Kurt was
the only father she'd ever known. They had a connection so special
it sometimes made me feel I should turn away, that I was intruding.
If Elizabeth was the princess, then Kurt was her knight.
The imminent arrival of this little sister (how strange is it that
none of us ever imagined the new baby could be anything but a
girl?) energized Kurt and Elizabeth to fever pitch. Elizabeth drew
elaborate sketches of what the baby's room should look like.
Kurt hired a contractor to build the addition. But then the builder's
mother had a stroke and he had to move unexpectedly to
Florida; none of the other crews had time to fit our job into their
schedules before the baby's birth. We had a hole in our wall and
rain leaking through the attic ceiling; mildew grew on the soles
of our shoes.
When I was seven months pregnant, I came downstairs to find
Elizabeth playing in a pile of leaves that had blown past the plastic
sheeting into the living room. I was deciding between crying
and raking my carpet when the doorbell rang.
He was holding a canvas roll that contained his tools, something
that never left his possession, like another man might tote
around his wallet. His hair brushed his shoulders and was knotted.
His clothes were filthy and he smelled of snow—although it
wasn't the right season. Shay Bourne arrived, unexpected, like a
flyer from a summer carnival that blusters in on a winter wind,
making you wonder just where it's been hiding all this time.
He had trouble speaking—the words tangled, and he had to
stop and unravel them before he could say what he needed to say.
"I want to . . . " he began, and then started over: "Do you, is there,
because . . . " The effort made a fine sweat break out on his forehead.
"Is there anything I can do?" he finally managed, as Elizabeth
came running toward the front door.
You can leave, I thought. I started to close the door, instinctively
protecting my daughter. "I don't think so . . ."
Elizabeth slipped her hand into mine and blinked up at him.
"There's a lot that needs to be fixed," she said.
He got down to his knees then and spoke to my daughter
easily—words that had been full of angles and edges for him a
minute before now flowed like a waterfall. "I can help," he replied.
Kurt was always saying people are never who you think they
are, that it was necessary to get a complete background check on a
person before you made any promises. I'd tell him he was being
too suspicious, too much the cop. After all, I had let Kurt himself
into my life simply because he had kind eyes and a good heart,
and even he couldn't argue with the results.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Shay. Shay Bourne."
"You're hired, Mr. Bourne," I said, the beginning of the end.
S E V E N M O N T H S L A T ER
M I C HAEL
Shay Bourne was nothing like I expected.
I had prepared myself for a hulking brute of a man, one with
hammy fists and no neck and eyes narrowed into slits. This was, after
all, the crime of the century—a double murder that had captured the
attention of people from Nashua to Dixville Notch; a crime that seemed
all the worse because of its victims: a little girl, and a police officer
who happened to be her stepfather. It was the kind of crime that
made you wonder if you were safe in your own house, if the people
you trusted could turn on you at any moment—and maybe because of
this. New Hampshire prosecutors sought the death penalty for the first
time in fifty-eight years.
Given the media blitz, there was talk of whether twelve jurors who
hadn't formed a reaction to this crime could even be found, but they
managed to locate us. They unearthed me in a study carrel at UNH,
where I was writing a senior honors thesis in mathematics. I hadn't
had a decent meal in a month, much less read a newspaper—and so I
was the perfect candidate for Shay Bourne's capital murder case.
The first time we filed out of our holding pen—a small room in the
superior courthouse that would begin to feel as familiar as my
apartment—I thought maybe some bailiff had let us into the wrong
courtroom. This defendant was small and delicately proportioned—the
kind of guy who grew up being the punch line to high school jokes.
He wore a tweed jacket that swallowed him whole, and the knot of
his necktie squared away from him at the perpendicular, as if it were
being magnetically repelled. His cuffed hands curled in his lap like
small animals; his hair was shaved nearly to the skull. He stared
down at his lap, even when the judge spoke his name and it hissed
through the room like steam from a radiator.
The judge and the lawyers were taking care of housekeeping details
when the fly came in. I noticed this for two reasons: in March, you
don't see many flies in New Hampshire, and I wondered how you went
about swatting one away from you when you were handcuffed and
chained at the waist. Shay Bourne stared at the insect when it paused
on the legal pad in front of him, and then in a jangle of metal, he raised
his bound hands and crashed them down on the table to kill it.
Or so I thought, until he turned his palms upward, his fingers opened
one petal at a time, and the insect went zipping off to bother someone
In that instant, he glanced at me, and I realized two things:
1. He was terrified.
2. He was approximately the same age that I was.
This double murderer, this monster, looked like the water polo team captain
who had sat next to me in an economics seminar last semester. He
resembled the deliveryman from the pizza place that had a thin crust, the
kind I liked. He even reminded me of the boy I'd seen walking in the
snow on my way to court, the one I'd rolled down my window for and
asked if he wanted a ride. In other words, he didn't look the way I figured
a killer would look, if I ever ran across one. He could have been any
other kid in his twenties. He could have been me.
Except for the fact that he was ten feet away, chained at the wrists
and ankles. And it was my job to decide whether or not he deserved to
* * *
A month later, I could tell you that serving on a jury is nothing like you
see on TV. There was a lot of being paraded back and forth between
the courtroom and the jury room; there was bad food from a local deli
for lunch; there were lawyers who liked to hear themselves talk, and
trust me, the DAs were never as hot as the girl on Law & Order: SVU.
Even after four weeks, coming into this courtroom felt like landing in a
foreign country without a guidebook . . . and yet, I couldn't plead ignorant
just because I was a tourist. I was expected to speak the language
Part one of the trial was finished: we had convicted Bourne. The
prosecution presented a mountain of evidence proving Kurt Nealon had
been shot in the line of duty, attempting to arrest Shay Bourne after
he'd found him with his stepdaughter, her underwear in Bourne's
pocket. June Nealon had come home from her OB appointment to find
her husband and daughter dead. The feeble argument offered up by
the defense—that Kurt had misunderstood a verbally paralyzed Bourne;
that the gun had gone off by accident—didn't hold a candle to the overwhelming
evidence presented by the prosecution. Even worse. Bourne
never took the stand on his own behalf—which could have been because
of his poor language skills . . . or because he was not only guilty
as sin but such a wild card that his own attorneys didn't trust him.
We were now nearly finished with part two of the trial—the sentencing
phase—or in other words, the part that separated this trial from
every other criminal murder trial for the past half century in New
Hampshire. Now that we knew Bourne had committed the crime, did he
deserve the death penalty?
This part was a little like a Reader's Digest condensed version of
the first one. The prosecution gave a recap of evidence presented
during the criminal trial; and then the defense got a chance to garner
sympathy for a murderer. We learned that Bourne had been bounced
around the foster care system. That when he was sixteen, he set a fire
in his foster home and spent two years in a juvenile detention facility.
He had untreated bipolar disorder, central auditory processing disorder,
an inability to deal with sensory overload, and difficulties with reading,
writing, and language skills.
We heard all this from witnesses, though. Once again. Shay Bourne
never took the stand to beg us for mercy.
Now, during closing arguments, I watched the prosecutor smooth
down his striped tie and walk forward. One big difference between a
regular trial and the sentencing phase of a capital punishment trial is
who gets the last word in edgewise. I didn't know this myself, but
Maureen—a really sweet older juror I was crushing on, in a wish-youwere-
my-grandma kind of way—didn't miss a single Law & Order episode,
and had practically earned her JD via Barcalounger as a result. In
most trials, when it was time for closing arguments, the prosecution
spoke last... so that whatever they said was still buzzing in your head
when you went back to the jury room to deliberate. In a capital punishment
sentencing phase, though, the prosecution went first, and then
the defense got that final chance to change your mind.
Because, after all, it really was a matter of life or death.
He stopped in front of the jury box. "It's been fifty-eight years in
the history of the state of New Hampshire since a member of my office
has had to ask a jury to make a decision as difficult and as serious as
the one you twelve citizens are going to have to make. This is not a decision
that any of us takes lightly, but it is a decision that the facts in
this case merit, and it is a decision that must be made in order to do
justice to the memories of Kurt Nealon and Elizabeth Nealon, whose
lives were taken in such a tragic and despicable manner."
He took a huge, eleven-by-fourteen photo of Elizabeth Nealon and
held it up right in front of me. Elizabeth had been one of those little girls
who seem to be made out of something lighter than flesh, with their filly
legs and their moonlight hair; the ones you think would float off the
jungle gym if not for the weight of their sneakers. But this photo had
been taken after she was shot. Blood splattered her face and matted her
hair; her eyes were still wide open. Her dress, hiked up when she had
fallen, showed that she was naked from the waist down. "Elizabeth
Nealon will never learn how to do long division, or how to ride a horse,
or do a back handspring. She'll never go to sleepaway camp or her
junior prom or high school graduation. She'll never try on her first pair
of high heels or experience her first kiss. She'll never bring a boy home
to meet her mother; she'll never be walked down a wedding aisle by
her stepfather; she'll never get to know her sister, Claire. She will miss
all of these moments, and a thousand more—not because of a tragedy
like a car accident or childhood leukemia—but because Shay Bourne
made the decision that she didn't deserve any of these things."
He then took another photo out from behind Elizabeth's and held it
up. Kurt Nealon had been shot in the stomach. His blue uniform shirt
was purpled with his blood, and Elizabeth's. During the trial we'd heard
that when the paramedics reached him, he wouldn't let go of Elizabeth,
even as he was bleeding out. "Shay Bourne didn't stop at ending Elizabeth's
life. He took Kurt Nealon's life, as well. And he didn't just take
away Claire's father and June's husband—he took away Officer Kurt
Nealon of the Lynley Police. He took away the coach of the Grafton
County championship Little League team. He took away the founder of
Bike Safety Day at Lynley Elementary School. Shay Bourne took away a
public servant who, at the time of his death, was not just protecting his
daughter... but protecting a citizen, and a community. A community
that includes each and every one of you."
The prosecutor placed the photos facedown on the table. "There's
a reason that New Hampshire hasn't used the death penalty for fiftyeight
years, ladies and gentlemen. That's because, in spite of the
many cases that come through our doors, we hadn't seen one that
merited that sentence. However, by the same token, there's a reason
why the good people of this state have reserved the option to use the
death penalty . . . instead of overturning the capital punishment statC
ute, as so many other states have done. And that reason is sitting in
this courtroom today."
My gaze followed the prosecutor's, coming to rest on Shay Bourne.
"If any case in the past fifty-eight years has ever cried out for the ultimate
punishment to be imposed," the attorney said, "this is it."
College is a bubble. You enter it for four years and forget there is a real
world outside of your paper deadlines and midterm exams and beerpong
championships. You don't read the newspaper—you read textbooks.
You don't watch the news—you watch Letterman. But even so,
bits and snatches of the universe manage to leak in: a mother who
locked her children in a car and let it roll into a lake to drown them; an
estranged husband who shot his wife in front of their kids; a serial
rapist who kept a teenager tied up in a basement for a month before he
slit her throat. The murders of Kurt and Elizabeth Nealon were horrible,
sure—but were the others any less horrible?
Shay Bourne's attorney stood up. "You've found my client guilty of
two counts of capital murder, and he's not contesting that. We accept
your verdict; we respect your verdict. At this point in time, however,
the state is asking you to wrap up this case—one that involves the
death of two people—by taking the life of a third person."
I felt a bead of sweat run down the valley between my shoulder
"You're not going to make anyone safer by killing Shay Bourne.
Even if you decide not to execute him, he's not going anywhere. He'll
be serving two life sentences without parole." He put his hand on
Bourne's shoulder. "You've heard about Shay Bourne's childhood.
Where was he supposed to learn what all the rest of you had a chance
to learn from your families? Where was he supposed to learn right from
wrong, good from bad? For that matter, where was he even supposed
to learn his colors and his numbers? Who was supposed to read him
bedtime stories, like Elizabeth Nealon's parents had?"
The attorney walked toward us. "You've heard that Shay Bourne
has bipolar disorder, which was going untreated. You heard that he
suffers from learning disabilities, so tasks that are simple for us become
unbelievably frustrating for him. You've heard how hard it is for him to
communicate his thoughts. These all contributed to Shay making poor
choices—which you agreed with, beyond a reasonable doubt." He
looked at each of us in turn. "Shay Bourne made poor choices," the attorney
said. "But don't compound that by making one of your own."
It was up to the jury. Again.
It's a strange thing, putting justice in the hands of twelve strangers.
I had spent most of the sentencing phase of the trial watching
their faces. There were a few mothers; I would catch their eye and
smile at them when I could. A few men who looked like maybe
they'd been in the military. And the boy, the one who barely looked
old enough to shave, much less make the right decision.
I wanted to sit down with each and every one of them. I wanted
to show them the note Kurt had written me after our first official
date. I wanted them to touch the soft cotton cap that Elizabeth had
worn home from the hospital as a newborn. I wanted to play them
the answering machine message that still had their voices on it, the
one I couldn't bear to erase, even though it felt like I was being cut
to ribbons every time I heard it. I wanted to take them on a field trip
to see Elizabeth's bedroom, with its Tinker Bell night-light and
dress-up clothes; I wanted them to bury their faces in Kurt's pillow,
breathe him in. I wanted them to live my life, because that was the
only way they'd really know what had been lost.
That night after the closing arguments, I nursed Claire in the
middle of the night and then fell asleep with her in my arms. But I
dreamed that she was upstairs, distant, and crying. I climbed the
stairs to the nursery, the one that still smelled of virgin wood and
drying paint, and opened the door. "I'm coming," I said, and I
crossed the threshold only to realize that the room had never been
built, that I had no baby, that I was falling through the air.
M I CHAEL
Only certain people wind up on a jury for a trial like this. Mothers who
have kids to take care of, the accountants with deadlines, doctors attending
conferences—they all get excused. What's left are retired folks,
housewives, disabled folks, and students like me, because none of us
have to be any particular place at any particular time.
Ted, our foreman, was an older man who reminded me of my
grandfather. Not in the way he looked or even the way he spoke, but
because of the gift he had of making us measure up to a task. My
grandfather had been like that, too—you wanted to be your best around
him, not because he demanded it, but because there was nothing like
that grin when you knew you'd impressed him.
My grandfather was the reason I'd been picked for this jury.
Even though I had no personal experience with murder, I knew
what it was like to lose someone you loved. You didn't get past
something like that, you got through it—and for that simple reason
alone, I understood more about June Nealon than she ever would
have guessed. This past winter, four years after my grandfather's
death, someone had broken into my dorm and stolen my computer,
my bike, and the only picture I had of my grandfather and me together.
The thief left behind the sterling silver frame, but when I'd
reported the theft to the cops, it was the loss of that photograph that
hurt the most.
Ted waited for Maureen to reapply her lipstick, for Jack to go to the
bathroom, for everyone to take a moment for themselves before we settled
down to the task of acting as a unified body. "Well," he said, flat
tening his hands on the conference table. "I suppose we should just get
down to business."
As it turned out, though, it was a lot easier to say that someone deserved
to die for what they did than it was to take the responsibility to
make that happen.
"I'm just gonna come right out and say it." Vy sighed. "I really have
no idea what the judge told us we need to do."
At the start of the testimony, the judge had given us nearly an
hour's worth of verbal instructions. I figured there'd be a handout, too,
but I'd figured wrong. "I can explain it," I said. "It's kind of like a Chinese
food menu. There's a whole checklist of things that make a crime
punishable by death. Basically, we have to find one from column A,
and one or more from column B . . . for each of the murders to qualify
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