Monday, March 17, 2008

First Book Club Selection!

Welcome to the Lots to Read first book club selection.

You may not be surprised that the first book we chose is Change of Heart, by Jodi Picoult.

I got these book club questions from Jodi Picoult's website. I know there are A LOT of them, but don't feel you have to answer them all - read them over and enjoy!

  1. Discuss the irony of Kurt Nealon telling June that “people are never who you think they are”. (3)
  2. Michael says it is easier to say someone deserves to die for what they did than it is to take the responsibility to make that happen. How do you think you would feel in his position? Have you ever been in that position?
  3. After Shay is brought to I-tier, several “miracles” occur: Smythe’s baby is cured; the water changes to wine; Shay revives the robin; Lucuis’s AIDS is cured; the bubble gum is enough for all of them. Discuss the implications of each “miracle”.
  4. Religions come about because of what people need at the time that they need them. (94) Do you agree or disagree?
  5. What would be the hardest luxury to leave behind? (118)
  6. Michael’s grandfather said “I thought God was supposed to love you unconditionally. Those sure sound like a lot of conditions to me (the requirements of a true believer). (124)” Argue both sides of his statement.
  7. Which character is the most real to us? Which one is easiest to relate to? Why?
  8. Where do you stand on the issue of the death penalty? A vivid description if lethal injection is given on page 131. Has this book changed how you feel?
  9. June’s initial reaction is to refuse to a restorative justice meeting with Shay. How would you feel? What changes her mind?
  10. 13. saying I’m right. I’m just saying if you’re right, it still doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” Do you agree?
  11. Consider and address June’s questions on page 184. Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you loved? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy’s dying wish?
  12. Why were all the inmates on I-tier energized by Shay’s attempt to die on his own terms? (186)
  13. Dr. Wu says what makes a heart worthy for transplant has nothing to do with the donor’s personality. (200) Do you agree or disagree? By the end of the book, have you changed your mind?
  14. The history of the Gnostic gospels is in Change of Heart. Given what you now know about them, does this change your opinion of the New Testament in any way? If so, why, and if not, why not?
  15. We were introduced to Ian Fletcher in Keeping Faith. Has your opinion of Ian changed? How?
  16. June says that it’s her decision whether or not Claire should accept the heart – not Claire’s. Do you agree?
  17. “I don’t belong to a religion. Religion’s the reason the world’s falling apart—did you see that guy get carted out of here? That’s what religion does. It points a finger. It causes wars. It breaks apart countries. It’s a petri dish for stereotypes to grown in. Religion’s not about being holy,” Shay said. “Just holier-than-thou.”(341) The news offers many examples in today’s world of how religion can be distorted to further violence or narrow-mindedness. Do you think the benefits of organized religion outweigh its potential caveats?
  18. When Shay’s chains fell to the floor, what was your reaction as a reader? Do you believe in miracles?
  19. Discuss the irony of the various names in the novel: Dr. Christian Gallagher, Maggie Bloom, Shay’s foster home of Bethlehem, NH, Joe Lynch, Warden Coyne, Father Michael Wright – and the title, CHANGE OF HEART.
  20. Lucius’s sarcoma comes back after it was “cured”. What is the significance of the timing? Did this change your opinion of Shay’s “power”?
  21. Shay finally tells Michael what really happened to Elizabeth and Kurt Nealon on the night they died? Are you surprised? Do you believe Shay?
  22. Grace tells June “How would you have felt if---when Elizabeth died---someone told you that you can’t have her back, but that part of her could still be somewhere in the world. You may not know that part; you may not ever have contact with it---but you’d know it was out there, alive and well. Would you have wanted that?” Would you?
  23. How does the preparation for Shay’s execution take on a “showtime” quality? The “circus” atmosphere has been around earlier with the media. How are the two situations similar? How are they different?
  24. Several of the characters’ lives have intertwined: Calloway convicted of burning down a synagogue and Maggie’s father taking over as rabbi at Temple Beth (held in the cafeteria because the synagogue had burned down); CO Smythe’s baby was baptized by Father Michael and becomes one of Shay’s miracles; Michael finding his stolen picture of his grandfather and Shay’s involvement; Michael serving on the jury of Shay’s murder trial and then becoming his spiritual advisor. Discuss.
  25. What do you think is meant by the ending of the book?


tcccsy said...

OK, here are my answers to many of the questions. Like them or hate them, I did my best!

1. I didn't think about the irony until I read this question.
2. I have never been in this position & hope I never have to be. Most things are easier said than done.
3. All these incidents do seem like they are miracles, completely unexplained & the only thing that could be accounted for is the gum (at the end of the book).
4. I totally agree. I think many people find God in their deepest, darkest hour.
5. My family, no question.
6. ...
7. I feel June is the most real, to me. As a mother, she is also the easiest to relate to.
8. I think my stand on lethal injection depends on all the circumstances. I would think I'm against it but in a certain position, who knows.
9. I think you don't want to give "the bad guy" anything that he/she wants ... so you say no. In the end though, seeing them & saying what YOU want to say may sway you to give in.
10. ...
11. Yes & yes. I would absolutely give up my vengeance & grant my enemy's dying wish if it saved someone I loved ... NO QUESTION!!!
12. I think, as a prisoner, you don't have many options or choices and Shay choosing the way he died was a huge choice.
13. A worthy heart = a healthy heart, that's how I see it.
14. ...
15. I haven't read "Keeping Faith"
16. As Claire's mother, June does have the final say. If I was in June's place I would listen to my child(ren) and then make the best decision, even if it wasn't what the child wanted.
17. I think religion is what you make it. Anybody can find flaws in any given religion & it's up to you to live by the principles you see fit.
18. I don't know if I saw this as a miracle but I did see it as "amazing." It definitely made me catch my breath.
19. ...
20. My feeling was that Shay could only bring something back once. After that the "healing power" had no affect.
21. I was VERY surprised & I believe Shay because that is the only story to fall back on, with Kurt being dead.
22. I am 100% in favor of organ donation.
23. ...
24. ...
25. ...

-K said...

1. Well, he would know, wouldn't he?
2. Thankfully, I've never been in that position, and have no interest in "playing God" as it were.
3. They do seem to be miracles and I like how they are just amazing enough to be believable - enough to give you faith, but still have to make that leap. And I like that the bubble gum was him giving the other inmates a little bit of faith.
4. Agree for sure.
5. Hardest luxury - choice, freedom.
6. I definitely fall on the more Gnostic end of the Christian spectrum and believe that many of the "rules" separate me from faith than draw me to it, but that's me. I know that there are many folks who need the constructs of their church and organized religion for it to feel right, and that works too. It's just hard when people who are "so faithful and devout" tear down others for not following the exact rules that they deem correct.
7. Easiest to relate to is June because due to her circumstances you really see what her life is about, and it's pretty focused: her child, her grief, her hope, healing, anger. Maggie was too all-consumed with her appearance for me, Michael too much with his guilt, etc. I also really loved Maggie's dad, Joel the rabbi. I laughed when his name was finally revealed (my husband Joel has been asked many times upon meeting people - "Are you Jewish?" Huh?)
8. It seems to me that lifetime incarceration without parole would be worse than death, but I can see how someone like June would want to see "justice" served with the death penalty.
9. That would be a very difficult meeting to participate in! They could say something that would make it worse, but being able to vent at them could be useful.
10. Yep. There can be many "right" answers to questions in life - that's what makes it interesting and not simply a mathematical equation.
11. To save one of my children or husband. Yes, no question.
12. Choice. Freedom = power.
13. It is what it is a muscle, and it was a match. I did love the end of the book though...
14. I think the Bible is wonderful in so many ways, however I've always had a bit of an issue with taking everything in the Bible so literally. Translations of translations, possible misinterpretations, "editors" with agendas.
15. skipping...
16. The parent's decision ultimately.
17. I think organized religion can be wonderful, especially with a great pastor, Bible study group, etc. community is a good thing, but that "worshiping" in your veggie garden can work as well and a balance of both is probably best.
18. I was surprised, but that one was a little too obvious to me. I preferred the slightly more "mysterious" occurrences.
19. The irony of the names was a nice touch.
20. I saw it as Shay losing faith a little under the barrage of the courtroom, etc. so his "miracle" effects were waning as well like ET's plant wilting and dying when he was wilting and dying.
21. I do believe Shay, and it fits well. It's just the most likely answer and a good illustration of how our justice system is likely to side with the "best and brightest" so to speak. There was a hint early in the book too about Kurt and Elizabeth's relationship that made me wonder. Just one comment about how ultra-close they were, and it's easy to see how blinded June could've been to her savior, Kurt.
22. Organ donation is wonderful. A friend's wife was saved when she needed an emergency liver transplant. A kid in Tacoma who was shot stealing a car gave life back to her and eight other people... amazing.
23. skipping...
24. Jodi's masterful with weaving a story - love it.
25. Love, faith and a little of the miraculous bring us what we love (and what we need) in life.

I loved this book, and I love that her writing really makes you think and learn new things.

Jerrie said...

I really enjoyed reading Cheryl's and Katrina's answers to these questions. This book was definitely a thinker book.

I think I was able to identify with June the most probably due to being a mother. I thought a lot about the decision to take a heart from someone that I felt destroyed my family to save what family I had left. What an extremely difficult position. Of course I would want to save my child - no question - however, I could see the hesitation - the reality and finality of this person "living forever" or living on in my loved one. I think in the end I would chose to take the heart, but it would be a battle ground of emotion.

I was really glad that one of the questions asked about what Michael's grandfather said “I thought God was supposed to love you unconditionally. Those sure sound like a lot of conditions to me." This is something I have been wrestling with a lot in my life in the past few years. I have done a lot of reading/research into religion, faith, spirituality as well as into myself. And I do think that "the church" has many conditions on Christianity and I understand the reason(s) "the church" did that, however I don't believe that following or not those conditions make or don't make one a Christian...

Anyway...overall I would say a big round of applause for Jodi (once again) another winner! :)

Angie said...

Finally finished the book! Here is my best shot considering pregnancy brain drain! :)

1. Well if what Shay says is true then Kurt was very much speaking the truth knowing about his own deceptive ways!
2. Thank God I have never been put in that position but I can see where it would be fine to say "they deserve to die because of their actions" but who would want to be the person to chose that for them or to push the button?!
3. I never really doubted the "miracles" with the exception of the gum and that wasn't until the end of the story.
4. I certainly think that there have been many, many newer so called religions that have come about so that someone could say what they were doing is right.
5. For me personally the hardest luxury that I am already having to leave behind is the freedom to move. I long for the day that I can take my kids to the park and go for a walk around their paths.
6. I think to say any being should literally love unconditionally is unreasonable. Even for God. It leaves way too much open ended.
7. I kind of felt like Maggie was the most real and easist to identify with. She questioned the things in life that most of us find ourselves questioning on a regular basis. June was a little harder to relate to just because of the blows she had been dealt in life.
8. I have never been a believer in the death penalty so this book didn't change the way I felt about it, rather it solidified just why I don't agree with it.
9. Not sure how I would feel but I am sure Claire's being is what changed her mind.
11. Boy I just don't think I would hesitate to save my childs life if it meant to grant a bad guys wish. I don't think she gave up her vengeance at all, she was only thinking about saving her daughter's life.
12. It probably gave them each their own type of hope
13. I believe our brains control a lot more of our health than we know. I think if she truly didn't want the heart, her body could have rejected it because of negativity.
14. I still really don't know enough about the Gnostic gospels for them to change my opinion of the New Testament.
16. I absolutely agree that mom should be the final decision maker because Claire is young. But you still have to keep in mind #13 and all that goes with it.
17. I think at one point we could have said that organized religion had more benefits than caveats but I think we are very quickly turning the corner and it is going to be opposite where there are more caveats than benefits.
18. I didn't really have a reaction (was probably tired) but yes I very much believe in miracles.
19. Didn't catch on to the ironies until these questions!
20. Not sure of the timing significance and it didn't change my opinion, just kind of thought it was losing hope along with him.
21. I kind of figured that was what happened when he had told June and she got angry. That was just predictable. And yes I did believe him.
22. It sure sounds good....
24. Such is life....don't really have a better explanation for that.
25. My first thought was she inherited the ability to heal like he had...can't remember what they call it...