Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson (4 stars)

From Amazon:  Sara Louise Bradshaw is sick and tired of her beautiful twin Caroline. Ever since they were born, Caroline has been the pretty one, the talented one, the better sister. Even now, Caroline seems to take everything: Louise's friends, their parents' love, her dreams for the future.

For once in her life, Louise wants to be the special one. But in order to do that, she must first figure out who she is . . . and find a way to make a place for herself outside her sister's shadow.

Louise and Caroline are twin sisters growing up on a small island in the Chesapeake Bay. Christine has a beautiful voice and delicate system while Louise would rather be crabbing all day dressed like a boy.

Louise feels lost in the sea of concern and appreciation always surrounding her sister. Her situation is further aggravated by a senile grandmother spouting bible verses and a mysterious new neighbor. Her best friend, Call, is a saving grace but even he can’t ultimately resist Caroline’s charms.

My heart broke for Louise and her feeling of being overlooked and unloved. She struggles to find a way out, yet feels tied to those who need her even when they don’t give her what she needs. Forces outside her control constantly intervene and even the fates seem to prefer Caroline. Louise studies at home while Caroline finds her freedom off the island.

When she’s struggling yet again to find the strength to leave, she asks her Mom if she will miss her more than Caroline. “More,” her mother replies. Louise’s internal response: “I did not press her to explain. I was too grateful for that one word that allowed me at last to leave the island and begin to build myself as a soul, separate from the long, long shadow of my twin.”

Katherine Paterson does a beautiful job showcasing the pains of growing up, of finding yourself in the shadow of another. There’s the added benefit of humorous scenes with the grandmother and Call. Laugh out loud scenes.

A young adult book and winner of the Newbery Medal and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, this one is surely to be a classic for any young, or older, reader. Although it was written in 1980, the story is timeless. By setting the story on a remote island behind the times, it’s not as obvious that the story is current day.

My enthusiasm for the book only stumbled a bit when Louise became infatuated with a much older gentleman. Unfortunately, the conclusion was rushed. After so much investment in Louise, I wanted to see more of a full journey. In the end, I felt slightly cheated.

Overall, however, it’s a wonderful read and certainly worthy of a look.

Rating: 4 stars (edging to 4.5) 

For more information about the book and the author, please visit Katherine Paterson’s website. She’s also the author of Bridge to Terabithia.