Sunday, May 13, 2012

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Author: William Landay, Grover Gardner (narrator)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Audiobook: Blackstone Audio
Date of Publication: January 2012

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Wow!  That was the only thing I could think of to say when I finished listening to this book.  Defending Jacob will definitely be in my top 10 for 2012.   The book asked a few questions that really made me think.  What would I do as a parent if my child was accused of murder? How much do you really know your own child? Is it really nature or nurture that makes a person act the way they do?  Is our life predetermined by our genetic make-up? 

All of these themes run throughout the book.  Andy Barber finds his life turned upside down when he finds his 14 YO son accused of murdering his classmate.  He knows he is innocent and will do anything to help save his son. Jacob comes from a seemingly stable and loving family. Both parents are well educated and normal. The thing I loved about the book is that it gives the reader a realistic view of what happens to the "accused" family. It was refreshing to see it from the other side. Not just in the initial stages, but more importantly, how they handle the aftermath. 

Each person reacts in different ways.  The father sets off on his own investigation, the mother withdraws into herself and becomes a shadow of what she was before and the son still acts like a typical clueless teen.   I also enjoyed the parts about the trial.  I read that the author was an ADA in Massachusetts, so he brings some authenticity to the book.  I didn't feel like I was reading a Law and Order script.

So, did he do it?  I'm not going to tell you.  You have to read the book for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I often listen to audio books at work.  While I am pretty good at listening and working at the same time, I had to stop working during the last 15 minutes of the book.  It was that good.   Be prepared for a few twists.  This book is no typical court room drama.  Just when you think you have it figured out, the author throws you another curve ball.  I listened to the audio book and I fully enjoyed listening to Grover Gardner, the narrator of the audio book. 

Just a little side note about the one thing that bothered me about this book. If the so-called "murder gene" (or the MAOA-knockout) is carried on the X-chromosome, then it would be passed down from mother to son, not father to son. Males are XY and females are XX. Since it is the male that determines sex, the father would be passing the Y-chromosome to the son, not the X.  I know it may seem nit-picky, but that is the scientist in me. The book does mention chromosome 17 which also may play a part in the murder predisposition, which the father could pass onto the son. But there is no way a male gets the X from his dad.  Yet, while it bothered me, the rest of the book more than made up for it and I was able to give it up to creative license.

Defending Jacob is a book that I know will stay with me for a long time.  If you haven't read this book yet, put it on your TBR list right now!


Ashley Prince @ The Bibliophile's Corner said...

Ah! I have been wanting to read this book for a while. This review just made me want it even more.

Karen and Gerard said...

We both loved this book too and thought "WOW" just as you did. Here's the link to our review of it if interested: