Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Jacob Have I Loved (1981)
I definitely have more to say about Jacob Have I Loved. Just as in the Bible story there are twins, Louise and Caroline, and like the story of Esau and Jacob, Louise the older sister feels that all her parents interest and care is for the younger Caroline. Caroline was the sickly baby, the sensitive and delicate child. The talented young woman. Louise was strong, tom-boyish. Told in the first person, Louise says of Caroline and her parents, "She was so sure, so present, so easy, so light and gold, while I was all gray and shadow. I was not ugly or monstrous. That might have been better. Monsters always command attention, if only for their freakishness. My parents would have wrung their hands and tried to make it up to me, as parents will with a handicapped or especially ugly child...But I had never caused my parents 'a minute's worry.' Didn't they realize that I needed their worry to assure myself that I was worth something?" (p. 39)
Growing up on a small island in Chesapeake Bay, Louise feels trapped. Trapped by the water surrounding her, by her family, by expectations. Her mother had come to the island as a teacher and then met and married her father who was a fisherman. Louise feels that her mother threw her life away in staying on the island.
There is a lot that happens in this book--war abroad, storms, crazy grandmother to deal with, boys, coming of age. In the end, Louise argues at her mother. (I say Louise argues at her mother because her mother refuses to be drawn in and replies lovingly.)
"What do you want us to do for you, Louise?'
"Let me go. Let me leave!"
"Of course you may leave. You never said before you wanted to leave...I chose the island. I chose to leave my own people and build a life for myself somewhere else. I certainly wouldn't deny you that same choice. But, oh, Louise, we will miss you, your father and I."
"Will you really. As much as you miss Caroline?"
"More," she said, reaching up and ever so lightly smoothing my hair with her fingertips.
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. (228-229)
This is a serious book with lots of anger issues on Louise's part. She does end up in a good place and happy off the island. I would like to see the author write this story from another character's point of view as it would be interesting to see how the other characters view themselves and Louise. I would not recommend this book for elementary aged children. Good for middle school kids.
Paterson, Katherine. Jacob Have I Loved. Harper & Row, 1980.