Thursday, July 26, 2012

Defending Jacob

 This a disturbing novel about a family in Massachusetts-- the dad is an assistant district attorney in their small town-- and how their comfortable suburban world is changed forever when a boy in town is found stabbed to death and their 14-year old son Jacob is accused of the murder.  Andy, the father, is of course put on leave and begins his own investigation to prove his son's innocence. The victim is one of the popular boys in school and had been bullying Jacob for being a geek, for being different. We are given worrisome glimpses into Jacob's childhood, with bursts of anger and cruelty since he was a toddler. Jacob's friends, at first unwilling to talk, gradually reveal a side of Jacob that was unknown to his parents. And so begin the questions: Did they overlook their son's problems, did they really know him? How far will they go to protect him? Was the behavior that they dismissed as that of a "rambunctious" little boy really something more ominous? Is their geeky, secretive teenage son hiding something? The idea of a genetic disposition to violence is introduced in the trial as well, something else to think about. Jacob's parents are forced into the horrible situation of wondering whether their son could possibly be capable of this crime.  While the father's belief in his son's innocence is unwavering (in denial?), his mother is not so sure, and the effect of all this conflict on their marriage is devastating.

The story is woven around a narrative of the father being questioned before a grand jury, the story of their family, and the courtroom trial of Jacob, and you are never really sure where the story is headed. I was bouncing back and forth, never convinced of Jacob's guilt or innocence until the very end. This is a book you will find hard to put down, because you want and yet are afraid to see how it ends. It is a very sad story about a family destroyed, and because I read it during the time of the shooting massacre in Colorado, I couldn't help but think about that family and the nightmarish questions they must be asking themselves about their son. 

1 comment:

  1. I just read this last month. It is a very interesting story with lots of thought provoking ideas...especially being the mother of two boys. The ending is a shocker.