Jump to content

Menu

Jacob Have I Loved


Recommended Posts

All these years and there are still classic books that make school reading lists that I haven’t ever read, so I am trying to go back and read the ones I missed. Picked up this Newbury winner last week. 

Can I just say I hated this book? I mean, really found it awful? Despite the fact that living on an island like the main character would likely have great appeal for me, personally, I just hated this book. Not one redeeming adult character in the entire story. 

I’m wondering if it’s because I’m a mother of twins myself that makes me so irritated by the injustice depicted? I do understand that circumstances often require that one child receive more parenting energy than others, but what’s depicted in this book just breaks my heart. 

But maybe I’m overreacting? Tell me what you think of the story. 

(Naturally this thread will contain spoilers, consider yourself warned. ?)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I loved this book when I read it as a.... middle schooler probably.  It was a favorite book, I reread it.  I identified with the main character.

As an adult — no, just no.  As a parent — no, just no.  

I also have twins!

I think it’s like how I don’t buy the whole Laura and Mary dynamic anymore, but as a child I identified so strongly with Laura.

I think there are a lot of books that just are not the same as a parent.  They are for kids to identify with in some way, but it’s just not the same reader experience.

My first experience like this was listening to an audiobook of The Tale of Despereaux with my niece on a long drive.  It was her favorite book.  Her 4th grade teacher had read it to her class, and she had reread it on her own, when I got it from the library for our trip.

I was really disturbed by this book, and do not like it at all.  

But my niece was experiencing it very differently from me, and really identified with some things that I saw as just disturbing or nonsensical.  

 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Even Hansel and Gretel, which I loved as a child.... what is wrong with the dad that he will just leave his kids in the woods???????????

I still like this and read it to my kids, they just do not focus on the part of the dad leaving them in the woods, other than to think it is unfair or something.  They are not deeply disturbed by it.  

I also have this with Nellie Olson.  My goodness, she is portrayed as a black-and-white bad child, and as an adult, I just do not believe in these Nellie Olson-style bad children.  

But my daughter loves to be outraged at Nellie, and feel like Laura does not get a fair shake.  It is amazing how much she identifies to Laura, but to me, I don't see her in any Laura-like situations in her life.  But she must feel that way in some ways.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my sisters is the same way with another Katherine Paterson novel, Bridge to Terabithia.  It has always been one of her favorite books, and very meaningful to her.  

I am interested to know you still like it, I think right now I read some things very much from a parent perspective, and I wonder if I will like things more when my kids are older and I don't think about things the same way.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that while I read books from the perspective of a parent now, I still ALSO read them from the perspective of the child I was.  And that causes the profound resonance.  It's not that I grew up in a situation where a sibling was so overtly favored over me or anything.  It was always that it spoke to my spiritual life and my relationship with God, more than my relationship with siblings and parents.  

Bridge to Terabithia also has always very meaningful for me.  It's where my user name originates.  

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Terabith said:

It's a book that has resonated deep in my soul for me my entire life.  

 

In what way, specifically?

ETA sorry I wrote this before reading your second post.

I did like Bridge to Terebithia, despite the difficult subject matter. 

Edited by Seasider too
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Lecka said:

Even Hansel and Gretel, which I loved as a child.... what is wrong with the dad that he will just leave his kids in the woods???????????

I still like this and read it to my kids, they just do not focus on the part of the dad leaving them in the woods, other than to think it is unfair or something.  They are not deeply disturbed by it.  

I also have this with Nellie Olson.  My goodness, she is portrayed as a black-and-white bad child, and as an adult, I just do not believe in these Nellie Olson-style bad children.  

But my daughter loves to be outraged at Nellie, and feel like Laura does not get a fair shake.  It is amazing how much she identifies to Laura, but to me, I don't see her in any Laura-like situations in her life.  But she must feel that way in some ways.  

That’s what makes childhood so magical. Those things don’t matter to kids and it’s fine that they don’t. I love that and it makes me sad that I have lost that sense of wonder.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

You all make a good point about reading it from a parental perspective versus that of a tween or teen. I’m sure I’m bothered by things that would not have troubled my daughters. Still, even the quickly wrapped up ending isn’t something I think would have satisfied my sense of justice back in my tween years. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a “right book at the right time” for me.  I don’t think I really liked the ending either, other than just a sense like you couldn’t predict adulthood from childhood, but you could move past your childhood role.  

If that makes sense — it’s what I remember.  

But I did love it, and the ending, as far as I remember, I was okay with.

I saw it at the library and picked it up sometime after my kids were born, and I didn’t make it past not baptizing one of the babies.  Who does that.  I did not read further.  I just didn’t want to read further at that point.  

This is from my vague memory.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I adored the book when I was young. And I still identify with it deeply.

But I grew up in a home with some highly dysfunctional dynamics. I was the child that was expected to step in and act as an adult, but I was also the targeted child who acted as a scapegoat. So I was deeply moved by the way the main character was able to leave her island and forge her own independent identity without family support. 

Other books I loved as a young person: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Jane Eyre, & The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

I do think that certain books and certain themes resonate more deeply with children. And the books that seem off or upsetting to adults with healthy family dynamics can sometimes have a very positive impact on children who are dealing with dysfunctional homes.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Just thinking about it more, I think what I identified with is the feeling of being pigeonholed into a role in life, without getting to choose, and with unfairness..... but then maybe coming out stronger because of going through some hard times, and also, just a sense that in adulthood some things would not matter as much, and you don’t have to be stuck in that role forever.

It meant a lot to me.  I would say — it does still mean a lot to me, but I still can’t read it now because I see the adult decisions as decisions by people who should have known better, and as a child I think I just took that for granted like “adults are inscrutable, you can’t expect them to make sense.”

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually — spoiler alert....

Does it end with her telling a family having twins to baptize both the babies?

I think so....

I did really like that.  It’s like she had her own harsh experience but then she could help someone in her own situation later.  

I think that’s very powerful, and a powerful way to make sense of unfair things.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Lecka said:

It was a “right book at the right time” for me.  I don’t think I really liked the ending either, other than just a sense like you couldn’t predict adulthood from childhood, but you could move past your childhood role.  

If that makes sense — it’s what I remember.  

But I did love it, and the ending, as far as I remember, I was okay with.

I saw it at the library and picked it up sometime after my kids were born, and I didn’t make it past not baptizing one of the babies.  Who does that.  I did not read further.  I just didn’t want to read further at that point.  

This is from my vague memory.  

 

This is a good way of summing it up. But I've always liked the ending. Outwardly, she appears to be making similar choices to her mother. She moves to a rural, isolated place as an outsider. She marries a local. She discovers that every community has their faults and challenges. But she is treating people differently. She is consciously making a choice to build healthier relationships. And she's taken that childhood pain and channeled it into a life helping others. In that sense, it's really a beautiful ending.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I will also say — I felt like the book ended with the main character quietly happy with her own life, and not caring too deeply about the dynamics from her childhood.  

Like — she had moved on.  

I really liked that, even though it was a little weird that there wasn’t a real “reversal of fortunes” where she came out on top and her sister came out on bottom.  But she wasn’t even looking for that as an adult.  I was looking for that as a young person, so then it made me think — okay, maybe that’s not how things have to work, there doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser.  

I think it speaks to not even judging success and failure according to a comparison with her sister, or her family’s opinion.

I liked that a lot, it was very thought-provoking for me and probably formative for me also, in thinking about things like that.  

Edit:  I just saw the pp and I am reminded more of the ending.  I did like it.  

It was a little abrupt maybe, but there was a sense of peace that meant a lot.  

Edited by Lecka
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, Lecka said:

Actually — spoiler alert....

Does it end with her telling a family having twins to baptize both the babies?

I think so....

I did really like that.  It’s like she had her own harsh experience but then she could help someone in her own situation later.  

I think that’s very powerful, and a powerful way to make sense of unfair things.  

 

It ends with her delivering twins for a patient and one of the babies is sickly and demanding of attention right from birth. Deja vu!!! As soon as the ill infant passes the crisis point, she asks about the first born healthy twin and discovers that the was predictably just laid down in a crib. She tells the grandmother to pick that baby up and hold it, and to hold it a lot. 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, MinivanMom said:

 

This is a good way of summing it up. But I've always liked the ending. Outwardly, she appears to be making similar choices to her mother. She moves to a rural, isolated place as an outsider. She marries a local. She discovers that every community has their faults and challenges. But she is treating people differently. She is consciously making a choice to build healthier relationships. And she's taken that childhood pain and channeled it into a life helping others. In that sense, it's really a beautiful ending.

Ok,  I can see that. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Medicmom2.0 said:

 

English lit major lol. I actually included this book in a modern American writing teen class I taught.  One of the exercises I had the teens do was to list examples of where the parents supported Caroline and where they supported Louise.  Once they looked for it, the subtext was clear.

Well yes, that’s a great point about Louise being an unreliable narrator. But I don’t see the parents’ willingness to sacrifice come early enough in her life. It’s almost - to me, anyway - something that came from a sense of guilt. Too little, too late. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, Medicmom2.0 said:

This is one of my favorite books, both as a teenager and an adult.

One thing to remember is that Louise is an unreliable narrator.  We see how she feels that her parents favor Caroline, but there are many hints that this is neither intentional nor, possibly, true.  She feels that Caroline always gets everything due to her birth and her singing talent, but in the subtext you see their parents willing to sacrifice for Louise as well.  They arrange tutoring for her and allow her to drop out of school; her mother offers to come up with a way to send her to boarding school.  There are other clues in the subtext as well that Louise’s perspective is not entirely accurate.  

The crux of the birth story is that Louise was left alone and, she feels, forgotten in the madness of trying to save newborn Caroline’s life.  She grows up to become a nurse-midwife and delivers a similar set of twins at the end of the book.  Here her perspective seems to change, as she picks up the healthy twin and nurses it, making sure he is remembered after the initial mad rush to save the sick twin’s life. Louise, it seems, is better able to then understand and gain a true perspective on what had actually happened at her birth.

I remember thinking about that, too, when I read that book. How it seemed like she was being unfair to her parents. She seemed to be mad at her parents because she wasn’t Caroline. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

Well yes, that’s a great point about Louise being an unreliable narrator. But I don’t see the parents’ willingness to sacrifice come early enough in her life. It’s almost - to me, anyway - something that came from a sense of guilt. Too little, too late. 

Ok, it’s been a long time since I read that book, but it seemed like Caroline was gifted and had a direction in life. That’s why her parents sacrificed. Louise was average. She had no direction. I think some of what goes on here is the problems between the haves and the have-nots. Some people are born with beauty, talent, a pleasing personality, smarts, whatever. And some people are not. And it’s not fair, but it’s life. And Caroline had it all. Louise did not.

Ok, so I grabbed the book off the bookshelf.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

To clarify... I didn’t grow up in a situation with a favored sibling, and my parents loved me as best they could.  But much like Louise, in some ways that wasn’t enough for what I needed, due to their own problems.  But for me what resonated was the theology.  

When I was seven, some...unfortunate things happened with the pastor of my church.  I had a vision of God scratching my name out of the Book of Life and casting me from heaven, and after that I dreamed about hell every night until well into my 20’s.  The central struggle of my life was not “why do my parents hate me?” but “why does God hate me?  What did I do; why is it that from my earliest childhood that I was doomed to damnation and exile from the author of life?”  It was that question, that search for grace that made this book speak to my soul.  It’s why I went to seminary seeking some way to have a relationship with God. It’s what’s driven me to look for grace and redemption.  And I think redemption is what Louise found at the end, with a life of service to others coming full circle for those twins.  

  • Sad 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I liked it when I read it in middle school, and read it again as a young adult. The young adult reading was a healing experience for me. Not that I grew up in that type of family situation, but I identified with being pigeonholed into a family role. On this reading I noticed how she was sometimes unfair toward her parents. I started to realize that we, as children, can also pigeonhole ourselves. We can also remember things incorrectly, misinterpret them, and even cut off our nose to spite our face. 

I admired how she was able to grow beyond her childhood circumstances. I grew up in a large, enmeshed, boundary-challenged extended family. It seemed like every adult had retained their childhood family role. Coming from that, I thought the message that you can grow - personally, professionally, spiritually, that you can travel, move away, forge your own adult life and identity - was pretty amazing.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, KrissiK said:

Ok, it’s been a long time since I read that book, but it seemed like Caroline was gifted and had a direction in life. That’s why her parents sacrificed. Louise was average. She had no direction. I think some of what goes on here is the problems between the haves and the have-nots. Some people are born with beauty, talent, a pleasing personality, smarts, whatever. And some people are not. And it’s not fair, but it’s life. And Caroline had it all. Louise did not.

Ok, so I grabbed the book off the bookshelf.

 

Perhaps I am reading your response in a way other than younintended, but.... my “average” kids have received as much of my sacrifice as my “gifted” ones. I cannot imagine - as a parent - seeing them differently!

terebith, thank you for sharing that. I am so very sorry you had that horrible experience as a child, but I love the way you have sought the truth. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

 

Perhaps I am reading your response in a way other than younintended, but.... my “average” kids have received as much of my sacrifice as my “gifted” ones. I cannot imagine - as a parent - seeing them differently!

terebith, thank you for sharing that. I am so very sorry you had that horrible experience as a child, but I love the way you have sought the truth. 

Ok, let’s say you have two kids. One is.... say... a gifted gymnast. And one is just an average kid. Because your gymnast kid is talented, you will do what it takes to realize her talent. You will sacrifice time, money, etc. She’s going to go farther, which will require more of everything. But the average kid.... it’s not that as a parent you aren’t willing, but it’s not necessary. She’s not going have what it takes to go to the Olympics, and so you won’t be sacrificing to get her good coaches, etc. Does that make sense?

Another example is my own kids. My baby follows me around and talks my ear off. She’s interested in what I am doing and wants to help. My middle daughter is quieter. She prefers to read or color by herself or play imaginative games with the neighbors. I suppose the case could be made that I prefer one daughter over the over, but I don’t. I don’t listen and engage one and push the other one away. One needs me in a way the other doesn’t.

I think with Louise, she was resentful of Caroline’s neediness and her own independence. And perhaps because of that dynamic, she wS pushing her parents away.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...