Defending Jacob

I had heard about Defending Jacob on the Books On The Nightstand podcast. Michael Kindness was raving about it. I walked by it in the bookstore a number of times. I finally picked it up at Target and started reading it.

I was immediately taken by the legal part of the book. I should digress and say that the book is part legal thriller and part family drama. The legal part appealed to me because I love stuff that deals with the law. The family drama appeals to me because (to a much lesser degree), we’ve been going through teenage stuff with the teenager kids. I do not want to say too much about plot because there are some twists and turns that I don’t want to ruin for anyone.

Andy Barber is the First Assistant DA in the Boston area. His job is the get all the new cases that come into the DAs office. He lives in Newton, which he describes as partly Rockwell-esque Americana and part modern suburb – yuppie parents, privileged kids. The story begins with Andy getting a call about a murder in Cold Spring Park. The victim turns out to be a classmate of Jacob’s, Andy’s son. The kids are 14 and in 8th grade.

The first suspect is a child molester on probation who lives in an apartment that abuts the park. The questioning of the suspect never really gets underway because his attorney shows up. The case languishes until pieces start falling together that look like Jacob is the prime suspect. Jacob is eventually arrested and a trial ensues.

The family unravels as slowly as the legal process unfolds. Laurie, Andy’s wife and Jacob’s mother, starts out as everyone’s rock. The daughter of a psychiatrist who believes that there is nothing that cannot be talked through. Andy is quiet and internal. Laurie knows people’s names and is the glue, as Andy describes her, of her friends and the family. After Jacob is arrested, Laurie’s friends disappear. She sits alone in the courtroom – with a space bubble of feet on either side.

Andy helps with the defense and gets a defense attorney he’s faced in court many times to represent Jacob. Jonathon and Andy work to present Jacob’s defense….. And that is where plot discussion will end.

I do not want to ruin the book. I will say that I found Laurie to be the most interesting, if least developed characters. The book is told from Andy’s point of view and Andy is the narrator, except in the parts that are quotes from Grand Jury testimony. I almost wish that the book had been written from Laurie’s point of view. She is the most complicated character and the one most affected and effected by the events that unfold. I found myself wondering what she was thinking. We know what Andy’s thinking. Laurie remains an enigma.

I will not talk about the end here. But if any of you have read the book, I would love to know your thoughts about it. I think the book is well-written and contains the right amount of legal thriller tension and literary drama.

I will say that the end is not my favorite ending ever. If only because there is not the amount of closure I would have liked. But it is a remarkable book. I highly recommend it.


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