I hated Jacob and would have preferred to rub his cocksure attitude into the sand, knock him over the head with a shovel, and then bury him with said object about six feet under. He’s more emotionless void than passionate Picasso, and he feels absolutely no responsibility for his actions. That’s your typical teenager, at least on the latter, but not having a heart is not exactly what I strive toward every day of my life. And yet I ended up completely immersed in legalese and legal suspense.
William Landay has a knack for plotting novels, or at least based on the merits of DEFENDING JACOB. The spoon-fed trial details, the slipping between the present and the past almost effortlessly, the family history that comes out later like a pissed off reptile, and the emotional struggle to hold a family together even as it’s being torn apart all make for one glorious read. And yet he takes nearly 431 pages to answer one basic question: Is Jacob guilty or not? If you peel back all the emotional layers and struggles and doubts and accusations, that’s the bottom line. To put it mildly, he does it really, really well.
Andy Barber doesn’t want to answer this question. He doesn’t want to believe he could have made an error raising his son; instead, he chooses to focus on the goodness and righteousness that he sees every day in Jacob. He’ll do whatever it takes to defend his boy, even if it means lying or circumventing the truth or covering up details along the way. But then I’m the kind of person who thinks celebrities and other public figures should act in a professional, civic manner, and I hold myself to the same standards that I hold others to (often to be disappointed by said individuals somewhere along the way). None of that detracted from my overall reading experience, though. It just gave me a few additional thought molecules.
But I will say I didn’t like the ending. Even though it doesn’t change my rating, I would have been happier had the book ended about 30 pages sooner. Sure, it was an excellent twist, but it’s not one I was particularly happy about.