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Change of Heart

Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister's Killer

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Westminster John Knox Press
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Could you forgive your sister's killer?

"You have to forgive because you have been forgiven," said author Jeanne Bishop in reference to Jesus' Gospel message. Change of Heart shares her journey of moving beyond the concept of "forgiving and forgetting" to personal reconciliation with the man who killed her pregnant sister and brother-in-law. Her decision to forgive didn't come without a price though, and Bishop addresses the sacrifices that she made in the book. Bishop's work also brings the reader into the discussion of the challenging issues of restorative justice, juvenile life sentencing, mandatory minimums, and incarceration in the criminal justice system.

"It's not okay what you did, but I am not going to hate you. I am not going to wish evil on you," said Bishop. "I am going to wish the opposite. I am going to wish that you will be redeemed." It's a unique standpoint that will challenge readers from all backgrounds to look at forgiveness from a new angle. Change of Heart will also encourage them to move beyond mere forgiveness to the deeper waters of redemption and grace.

Change of Heart is an ideal book for book clubs and women's discussion groups.

Jeanne Bishop is a public defender in Cook County, Illinois, and an activist for the abolition of the death penalty. She writes regularly for The Huffington Post, and her work has been featured on, the Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Tribune, among others, and she has spoken around the world on issues related to crime and capital punishment.
Change of Heart
Justice, Mercy, an...
by Westminster John Knox Press

"A person is more than the worst thing he or she has ever done. God loves all human beings and endows them with dignity and worth. Juvenile life without parole sentences tell people who committed their crimes as juveniles that they are human garbage, to be thrown away into the maw of prison until the day they die. The criminal justice system in the United States, which deems some people unworthy of redemption—even children who commit serious crimes—urgently needs to hear voices that speak for mercy and restoration. Jeanne Bishop's is such a voice."
—Sr. Helen Prejean, activist and author of Dead Man Walking

"When I commuted the death sentences of everyone on Illinois's death row, I expressed the hope that we could open our hearts and provide something for victims' families other than the hope of revenge. I quoted Abraham Lincoln: `I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.' Jeanne Bishop's compelling book tells the story of how devotion to her faith took her face-to-face with her sister's killer and changed her mind about the sentence he is serving-life in prison without the possibility of parole. She reminds us of a core truth: that our criminal justice system cannot be just without mercy."
—Gov. George H. Ryan, Governor of Illinois 1999-2003

"Every murder involves two people: the murderer and the victim. Most of us want to remain as far as we can from either one. The chasm between the two is immense, with darkness in between. But occasionally someone comes along who attempts to bridge this divide at tremendous personal risk, putting the victim's life into the killer's stare, in the hope that some light might emerge. Such a person is Jeanne Bishop, whose sister was brutally killed. She has written a mesmerizing book, Change of Heart, describing her difficult journey through loss to confronting evil. Reading this book takes you to places you'd rather avoid, but you may come away treasuring life even more."
—Richard C. Dieter, Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center

"This book is an extraordinary witness for survivors of crime and all of us who seek a more compassionate, thoughtful and responsible way to manage the tragic ways we hurt each other. Courageous and honest, Ms. Bishop's compelling story is a gift for anyone seeking a way to think about punishment and reconciliation in a society where families are too often burdened by violence and the avenging politics of fear and anger."
—Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy

"As a reporter in Arkansas covering Governor Bill Clinton in the 1980s and '90s, I watched the state murder three men, including a cop-killer named Ricky Ray Rector, whose execution helped elevate Clinton to the presidency. I heard Rector moan for 20 minutes before witnessing his death. As the son of a Detroit cop, that experience left me tangled in emotions -- until I read Jeanne Bishop's extraordinary book, "Change of Heart," and, through her painfully personal storytelling, I felt the soft power of mercy, forgiveness and Grace. Bishop's sister Nancy now lives in me, alongside the killers I watched die."
—Ron Fournier, Senior Political Columnist and Editorial Director, National Journal

"Change of Heart is a powerful story of faith, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This is a painfully honest account of a remarkable and courageous journey from the tragedy and pain of the murder of family members to a place of freedom and grace."
—Maurice Possley, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author

"Change of Heart is a tragic story of senseless violence, horrific loss, and, in the end, forgiveness that is astonishing. I kept asking myself - `As a Christian, could I be as strong and merciful as Jeanne Bishop?' I have my doubts."
—Best-selling author John Grisham

"There is a lot of grace in Jeanne Bishop's elegant, elegiac book Change of Heart, but it is not a wimpy hearts-and-flowers kind of grace. Instead, it is a heartfelt, gut-wrenching kind of grace. Powerful grace. Transformative grace. This is an utterly surprising story of redemption. It is an unflinching look at the very real cost of blessing- truly blessing-someone else. Jeanne's story of restorative justice haunts me. The stunning letter she wrote to her sister's murderer still lingers. And the story of the grace of the gift of two quarters is one I will retell and retell again. Change of heart is what happens when someone, in the depths of despair, cries, `This is too much for me. God, take it and redeem it,' and believes ... no matter the cost. Please read this book."
—Robert Darden, associate Professor of Journalism PR & New Media at Baylor University and author of Nothing but Love in God's Water: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, Volume I.

"Bishop captivates readers with her elongated, deliberate, painful, and utterly authentic story."
Publisher's Weekly Starred Review

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