Newbery Book Review

Jacob Have I Loved

I would be interested in hearing the reaction and/or opinion of those who read this week’s winner Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson when they were younger.  The reason for my curiosity being that about halfway through the book I realized I had taken the perspective of Wheeze (Sara Louise, aka Twin #1) as fact, not even taking into consideration that her point of view was biased and might not be altogether accurate to the situation.  For those who read the book as a teenager or younger, did you side with Sara Louise or did you wonder if she was exaggerating even just a little bit?

It’s a classic story of sibling rivalry and jealousy set on an island in the Chesapeake Bay, year 1941.  The siblings are twin girls and the story is entirely told from the perspective of the older, forgotten one: Wheeze.  When they were born Caroline, the younger, was weaker and therefore got more attention and care.  In Wheeze’s eyes this never changed.  For awhile I sided with Wheeze and thought Caroline was a stuck up brat who was consumed with herself.  It wasn’t until about halfway through the story, when I was actually starting to feel connected to it, that I realized that everything Sara Louise described about her sister wasn’t as awful as she perceived.  I started wondering what the story would look like from the another perspective.  Honestly, if it was from Caroline’s perspective I think that Wheeze would be the crazy, over-emotional sister who no one could understand because she wouldn’t let anyone in.  Yet, deep down something about Wheeze resonated with me.  At some point in my life, and in yours probably, I’ve felt misunderstood, unloved or less important than so and so.  The unfortunate thing is that those feelings and beliefs about myself (and yourself) stem from a deep-rooted jealousy or insecurity and only serve to push us farther away from the people who want to love us.

In talking about the story to Forrest this morning I realized that most of what was going on in this story was overly dramatic in Wheeze’s eyes because, well, she was 14.  Who wasn’t dramatic and crazy as a 14-year-old girl?  Heaven knows I was.  Jeez.  In fact, I went back through some of my old journals to try to remember what it was like being a teenager and homeschooled and I was so….what’s the word….mortified by the exuberant, overly gushiness of myself at that age.  I won’t even let Forrest read them.

All I’m really trying to say is that I think most of what Wheeze felt or perceived from her family was all in her head.  Well, the Grandma didn’t help matters and I felt myself getting angrier and angrier at the meanness of that women.  She would quote Scripture to the family, specifically to the girls’ mother, about being a whore and all other kinds of niceties.  And when Caroline is given a chance to attend a music boarding school and Sara Louise has to stay on the island the Grandma whispers maliciously, “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.”  Horrible, horrible.  I shudder to think of being that mean when I’m old.

I will add a disclaimer to the above statement about it being all in her head: rotten things did happen to Sara Louise.  Near the end of the story your heart gets heavy when door after door of opportunity is slammed shut in her face.  When Call, her childhood best friend comes back from the Navy and she thinks maybe they could end up together she experiences a shock when he says Caroline said yes to his proposal of marriage.  Ouch.  The story does improve for Wheeze when she finally allows herself to shed the shell of pity and take charge of her future.  She goes to college off the island and becomes a mid-wife in a mountain village where she meets and falls in love with a guy whose name is escaping me at the moment.

What did I learn from the story?  (An important question that I think I should start asking with every Newbery I read.)  I learned that when I start to feel myself doing a “Sara Louise”, aka: pushing everyone away because of my own insecurities and perceived notions of what everyone is saying or thinking about me, I need to view the scene from the other side.  Perhaps embrace the reality that the world doesn’t actually revolve around me and my wants and I need to stop living like it does.  Who knew you could learn so much from a book that looks like this one?

On that purely superficial note: what do you guys think of the cover of the book? :) Pretty awesome, eh?  I told Forrest, “it just looks so 80’s!”  Oh wait…

Birthday is coming up as is the live webcast of the Newbery 2010 proceedings.  We’re getting up really, really early to watch it live and I feel more ready this year considering how many books I’ve read that have been published in the last year.  Ooh boy.  It’s going to be good.  I’ll do a short little blurb here on Monday announcing the winner.

This next week is A Gathering of Days by Joan W. Blos.  The last book of the 80’s!!  Any takers?

Till next time…

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3 thoughts on “Jacob Have I Loved

  1. can I say that I love being taken away for a few moments…living in your world of review…can I also say that all of us are a mess at 14 and those years around that. Yikes! Hate to even think about it. I totally understand why you won’t let Forrest read your journal. Tho I can say as an impartial person…uhhummm…you were a delight in my book!!! Still are!

  2. Oh gosh, I think the top 3 list of worst things that could be done to me would involve the publication of my diary at ages 12-15. Also, promising me chocolate and then rescinding the offer. Thank you for this post and your willingness to take a higher road when engaging in literature. Most of us just read and let it push us around in just one point of view, but I bet the authors wished we dug a little deeper, sought other perspectives, and looked at how we are changed by the ideas.

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