Friday, March 23, 2012

Defending Jacob


What length would you go to protect your child? This is just one question that is raised in William Landay’s new book, Defending Jacob.

Andy Barber is an Assistant District Attorney in the county prosecutor’s office. When a fourteen year old boy is murdered, Andy takes the case. Until his son is accused of the murder and arrested.
The novel is framed with the new ADA questioning a witness (Andy) in front of the grand jury. As the questions are posed, Andy takes us through the events that transpired in his little town, to his little family and the courtroom fades into the background.

This book was never really about the courtroom for me and I don’t think it is meant to be. It poses some very difficult questions for any parent to have to face and is more emotional in its scope.  Can you ever believe your child is guilty of a crime, of murder? What length would you go to protect your child? Do you ever give up fighting for him?

It’s almost brutal in its truthfulness. Accused of murder in a small community, everything you know and value shattered in the blink of an eye. Your life ripped apart and knowing it will never be the same, you will never overcome the stink of a murder accusation. You will never be able to repair friendships; they are irrevocably withdrawn almost immediately.

Is Andy a reliable narrator? Can we trust him to tell us all of the facts- after all it is his son accused of murder? There are instances when Andy comes across as unreliable in his personal life. How does it fit in to the narrative he is relating to us? It is left to the reader whether you trust Andy.

An interesting defense strategy is introduced and examined. Are you pre-disposed to murder? Can you inherit a gene that makes you more likely to kill?  I think Landay does a good job of introducing this theory. It makes you wonder if this is going to become the latest trend in actual court cases – or maybe it has.

For me this book packed an emotional punch, from the images of Jacob as a baby to seeing him on trial. It begs you to answer the question what type of parent are you? Are you an Andy – your belief in your child unimpeachable or Laurie –who seems from the start to have doubts. Whether or not you are an Andy or a Laurie, does there ever come a time when you stop fighting for your child?

My only issue with the novel was some of the technical aspects. Was Facebook popular in middle schools in 2007? Was bullying the issue it is today? It is easy to overlook these inaccuracies. Otherwise, Landay does a fantastic job weaving this story. He keeps you on your toes and poses difficult questions. It’s hard to see the end coming.

Overall, I think it was a fast-paced, emotional read. I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend reading this. Great book club selection, there is much to discuss. Keep your tissues handy.

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