Recently I read the book Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. As you may know, it’s a pretty popular book and a lot of people have heard of it. It looked interesting, and not having mounds of books to read like usual, I decided to read it.
Now, first off, I want to say this: Do not judge a book by it’s cover. Or the blurb on the back. It looked very good. But it wasn’t. I picked it up and read the back:
Louise has had enough of her twin sister. Caroline is beautiful. Caroline is talented. Caroline is better. Growing up on the small island of Rass in Chesapeake Bay, Caroline seems to do nothing but take from Louise: their parent’s love, Louise’s chances for a better education, her dreams for the future. They have spent their lives entwined—sleeping in the same room, eating at the same table, and learning in the same classroom–and yet somehow nothing can bring them together. Louise’s only hope lies in seeking a place for herself beyond the stretch of Rass’s shores and her sister’s shadow. What will it take for her to break free?
You can see how it seemed like a neat book. I read it.
It starts out with the main character, 13 year old Sara Louise, crabbing–fishing for crabs–with her only friend, a 14 year old, ‘pudgy, bespectacled, and totally unsentimental’ boy.Call, her friend, is a not-to-bright person who never understands any of her jokes and only sees things as facts. He is ugly and lives with his mother and grandmother with no father to influence him. Louise lives with her twin sister who is constantly stealing the show, her father who is always on the water, her hard-working and always tired mother, and her snappy, sarcastic invalid grandmother. She lives an unhappy life. Caroline is very…feminine; meaning she is always fresh, smells good, and dresses like a lady, whereas Lousie comes home from catching crabs every day smelling like bait with dirt under her fingernails, wearing an over-sized Tshirt and dirty boots. She is quite a sight next to her beautiful sister. When the two girls were born, everyone always mentions how Caroline refused to breathe for a few minutes. Louise was set aside in a basket while the doctor’s fussed and worked over Caroline. Louise wold ask, “Where was I? Where did I go while you all worried about Caroline?” And her mother would say with a vague look in their eyes, “You…you were safe. We put you in the basket. But you were alright.” Her grandmother, however, would snap after vividly describing Caroline’s birth story on the same day as Louise’s, “How should I know? It was a long time ago!”
Shortly into the book, a mysterious character is introduced–that is, their background story is. Hiram Wallace. The story told of a Captain Wallace and his young son Hiram waiting out a storm in a ship. The thunder and lightening was fierce, and Hiram was afraid that his father’s ship would get struck. He took an ax, ran over and shopped down the huge mast before it could be struck. They had to be towed home by a neighbor, much to Hiram and his father’s embarrassment; mostly the latter’s. Everyone on the small island heard about it and Hiram became the source of all the waterman’s jokes. Soon after, he left the island and was never heard from again. People called him a coward and he was ashamed, so he left the island.
War has just started. Everyone is under stress. They don’t get much news being so disconnected on their island. One day, Louise meets her father’s ship to greet him when he comes home. As she is watching all the people leave the ship, a very old, mysterious man comes off, gathers his one bag of luggage and tramps of to the old abandoned house that had been empty for years. Louise wants to follow him and ask who he is, but her mother drags her home. She is dying of curiosity! Louise and Call get their chance to meet the stranger, though, when the peek into the windows of the ancient house days later. She thinks someone is living in there. She and Call are about to leave when suddenly Louise finds herself staring straight into a glass eye–the man’s periscope! She screams and jumps back, but the Captain-as he introduces himself- laughs and invites them in.
Louise is secretly positive he his a spy for the war; Call insists he is Hiram Wallace. As the two kids sit nervously in his living room, Call leans forward and says to the Captain, “You don’t seem like neither a spy.” Louise is very embarrassed but tries to keep calm because she is bent on being a counterspy and hopefully being able to turn him over to the President soon. The children become friends with him, and although it is never confirmed, over time you get the strong impression that he is the one and only Hiram Wallace, finally returning after these years!
Also over the course of the story, something very strange happens, which kind of ruined the whole book for me because of the weirdness of it all. Louise falls in love with the Captain. Yeah, the now 14 year old girl falls in love with the seventy-five year old man. Really weird. A big part of the book was all about that and whatever. None of it was necessarily “bad” but the way it was written is strange and the whole thing was totally weird. Anyways, he comes and lives at their house after a brutal storm and his house was destroyed. She doesn’t want him to leave, but he does. He moves into old Trudy Braxton’s house. She is an old lady who owns like 18 cats and lives alone. When Hiram and Trudy were growing up together on the island, his mother would say they should get married. But they never did. Hiram left before they could.
When Trudy has a stroke and is taken to the hospital, The Captain temporarily takes over her house. Caroline comes up with the suggestion that the Captain should propose to Trudy. It seemed silly at first, but Hiram considered it. Louise is fearful that he will marry the crazy old lady, and she is furious at Caroline for suggesting it. Sure enough, The Captain brings Trudy Braxton Wallace home from the hospital a few days later. Louise is heartbroken and loathes Trudy. She shares a miserable dinner at their house where the Captain and Trudy talk about when they got married and what their plans were.
She isn’t really in love with the Captain anymore. [whew] But when The Captain brings up the fact that the girls don’t get much education one day, she listens excitedly. He introduces the idea that he gives them a bit of money to send them to school. Louise is thrilled. At last! Something for her! But the Captain only goes on to say how their was a wonderful music school in London that would be perfect for Caroline. Her mother hesitates. Louise is heartbroken. “What about me? I am sure mother will say that she can’t let only Caroline go, but me too!” Her mother starts to protest slowly. “Oh, that is so kind of you…” She looks at Louise. “…but we simply can’t accept such a generous offer!” The Captain insists. Her mother agrees and Louise is once more left alone.
She spend a miserable, lonely summer working on the water while Caroline is in London, having a wonderful time traveling. Call goes off to the military. When he suddenly comes home one day, he is much changed. He is no longer the ugly, friendless by who didn’t understand anything. He was tall and had thinned out a lot. He was actually handsome, Louise realized! She realized how much she really liked Call, but before she could get her hopes up, he tells her he’d stopped by to see Caroline on the way to see Louise. And he’d proposed to her. Caroline and Call were going to get married!!
Wow, can you imagine why I didn’t really like this book? It is so sad how awful her life is! Anyways, at the end of the book, Trudy, The Captain, and her grandmother all are dead. She goes to school to become a doctor. A man tries very very hard to talk her out of it, but she has her heart set on it. Nothing else would do. She had to be a doctor. She ended up being a midwife.
Near the end, she goes to Joseph Wojtkiewicz’s house to take care of his son. She marries him. They have children. She continues her doctoring while her husband also works as a doctor. The very last part is after she delivers twins. Remembering her own birth, where Caroline was fussed over, trying to get her to breathe, while Louise lay in a corner alone, with no-one remembering her while they worked over Caroline, Louise urges the father to hold his other child.
“You should hold him. Hold him as much as you can. Or let his mother hold him.”
Over all, the book had a very good plot. But so many things ruined it. I do give credit to the great author; she’s got talent. But I don’t recommend this book. Some stuff was…a little edgy.
But if you would like to read it, go right ahead! This is just my view on it.
If you read it, what did you think?