Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My take on: Defending Jacob

It isn't often that a book leaves me with my eyes bulging and my mouth wide open. I just wasn't expecting  Defending Jacob by William Landay to pack such an emotional wallop. The entire book brings into question how well you know your children. When push comes to shove, could you truly be objective? When it comes to your children, are you operating on blind faith? Can you see the truth even when it is staring you in the face? What lengths would you go to protect your child?

Prosecutor Andy Barber is put to the test when his son, Jacob, 15, is accused and eventually put on trial for murder. A fellow student, Ben Rifkin, is stabbed to death in a local park. The authorities are under immense pressure to arrest someone. Reading the early part of the book made me think of the West Memphis Three. In my opinion, there was a rush to judgment in that case. When a local kid is murdered, you better catch the person quick. It doesn't matter if there is no evidence, just arrest someone to appease the public. In cases like that people doesn't always want to listen to the facts, they just want someone to blame.

In Defending Jacob, the initial evidence that led to Jacob seemed rather flimsy. Jacob was a nerd, he had few friends and was routinely bullied by Ben. So what? That's a pretty big leap to make. When Jacob is arrested, Andy learns that his son's fingerprint was on Ben's sweatshirt. I still thought, so what? The two boys went to school together. There could be an innocent explanation for the fingerprint. Jacob admits that he found Ben's body, and touched him to see if he was still alive. Still sounds perfectly innocent. But as the book moves on and the layers begin to peel, you begin to have doubts about Jacob.

Andy never wavers in his support for Jacob, but his wife Laurie is full of doubts. He believes a local pedophile is responsible. Up until the murder, Andy had been harboring a painful secret. His father is serving life in prison for murder. In Andy's mind there was no reason to mention it. His father's past has no bearing on present or future events. Andy turned out to be an upstanding citizen. He makes a living putting criminals away. He did all he could to prove that he wasn't his father's son. But Laurie and Jacob's defense team believe that exploring the family history might give some insight into Jacob's psyche. Andy believes it's a waste of time. But it also seemed like he was afraid of learning the truth. Did he pass on some kind of violent gene to his son? Is this his fault? Laurie seems to take on all of the guilt. She didn't commit a crime but walks around like she did. She's carrying the guilt for the entire family. She becomes a shell of her former self. She starts wondering what she did wrong. Was there some clue in Jacob's childhood? Could this have been prevented?

The book definitely points to the different reactions men and women have. It does seem to play on stereotypes in this respect. Andy is torn apart by the ordeal, but doesn't fall to pieces like Laurie. He wants concrete facts, not psychobabble. Laurie gives into her emotions. She wants to explore the psychological aspects of her son. She has this deeper emotional attachment to Jacob that Andy doesn't have. 

Jacob seems like a typical brooding teenager. It's like pulling teeth to get through to him. But he often displays no emotion. Like he is above all of this. The suffering of others don't really affect him. He buys a knife just because he can. People at school knew about it, but he would never use it right? Does all of this make him a murderer? I don't know. It's a question that isn't answered by the end of the book. It's all up to your own interpretation, which is what makes this book so fantastic. The last few pages will leave you emotional and highly upset. Can a person really sink to such despair? What am I talking about? You have to read the book to find out!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Random House) as part of a blog tour with Pump Up Your Book


  1. I like the premise of this, thanks for sharing it!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  2. The ending is very emotional. I kept wondering how it was going to end. I was totally shocked by the end.

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