Sunday, March 4, 2007

Jacob Have I Loved

Katherine Paterson is a storyteller and image maker. I, like others, loved this book. The topics covered were plenty and included: glorious details of life in a small water town around the Chesapeake Bay, the religious identity of a small town in America in the 1940s, small town reaction to World War II, gender issues, family relations - especially between twins who differ greatly, the magic of love, and last but certainly not least, the hard work involved in oystering and crabbing on our East Coast. Oh, yes and as a survivor of Dennis and Ivan along the Gulf Coast, the destructive and arbitray destruction of hurricanes.

I did find the book to be a bit unbalanced. We spend so much time learning to love Sara Louise, feeling empathy for her own awkwardness and self-doubt. We struggle with her as she moves through her life, half afraid and half daring. We want so much for her. The imbalance comes when she does strike out on her own and we do not find the detail or delight in her life. It is all much too brief. We do not learn about her academic experiences or her real life in the Appalachian mountains. Again, the midwife theme is here and Paterson shows what a needed and respected position Sara Louise occupies in her small town. But this is all too brief when it could have been rich and beautiful like the rest of the book. I loved the outcome but fought against the abrupt ending. I had to read the last chapter twice to make sure I understood what happened and did not miss something critical. I really could not believe the book was "done."

Favorite Quote: Crazy people who are judged to be harmless are allowed an enormous amount of freedom ordinary people are denied. (131)

Favorite Passage: When we left the gymnasium, the stars were so bright, they pulled me up into the sky like powerful magnets. I walked, my head back, my own nearly flat chest pressed up against the bosom of heaven, dizzied by the winking brillance of the night. "I wonder as I wander..." (30)

As a middle aged star gazer who is a little bit crazy, I can identify! The writing itself was very nice and I came to love the many characters in the book. This is one way I judge a book - did I fall in love? I did.


1 comment:

Betsy said...

I just finished this one today too! I really had to push through because I just couldn't sympathize. I thought that Sarah Louise was whiny and it was that, not the writing, that made me have a hard time. It seems like even after figuring out what she wanted to do with her life that it all still revolved around her and her feelings. I know her feelings had been neglected for so long (not just because of her sister, but because of her attitude)so when she became important she soaked it in. The ending was too abrubt for me to see that she'd gone through any true personal change. In the end I felt like her primary accomplishment was just getting away, not so much discovering herself or resolving her issues. And the whole occupation that she chose seemed out of nowhere. It has taken me several weeks so maybe I've just broken it up too much to appreciate it. Flusi(or anyone!) can you help me appreciate this more??