Thursday, April 29, 2010

Amaranthine Review: Jacob Have I Loved

"Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . ." With her grandmother's taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.
Growing up on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island in the early 1940s, angry Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Wheeze (her sister's name for her) began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island, especially of old Captain Wallace, who had mysteriously returned after fifty years. The war unexpectedly gave this independent girl a chance to fulfill her childish dream to work as a watermen alongside her father. But the dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.
Renowned author Katherine Paterson here chooses a little-known area off the Maryland shore as her setting for a fresh telling of the ancient story of an elder twin's lost birthright.
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone who's ever felt isolated and alone
High point:  The captivating writing
Low point:  This novel makes the reader ache
Reader maturity:  10+
Favorite quotes:  "My beautiful and golden twin sister was adored by everyone except me--the one who should have loved her best."
"It is hard, even now, to describe my relationship to Caroline in those days...And yet, if we were not close, why did only Caroline have the power, with a single glance, to slice my flesh clear through to the bone?"

Jacob Have I Loved was one of the most emotional books I read in my younger years. To this day, it brings back those feelings of wistfulness and isolation experienced during the teen years.

Everything that Louise tries to do, her sister beats her at. Caroline is manipulative and selfish, so skilled at her vicious craft that the blame always ends up on Louise. It's unfair, it hurts, and there's nothing Louise can do about it...until she decides to do something she knows Caroline would never do.

She comes into her own, physically and emotionally, but setting out to do a man's work in the absence of any brothers. In the end, she realizes that she has to create something entirely hers that Caroline can never take away. It's bittersweet, the lengths that Louise goes to become her own soul and free herself from the bindings of being Caroline's lesser half.

Anyone who has ever felt distress over being bested, jealousy of a sibling or general discontent (and isn't that everyone?) can find something to relate to in Jacob Have I Loved.

Title:  Jacob Have I Loved
Author:  Katherine Paterson
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Family & Relationships
Year:  1980
Book Source:  Purchased


  1. I liked this book, though it was so "weird" at times that it made the reader uncomfortable (in my opinion). All the same, the writing was absolutely fabulous! Thanks for the review. :D


  2. Yeah, I know where you're talking about. Nothing inappropriate occurs, but it is sort of awkward there for a while. When I re-read it, I tend to skip over that part (since I already know what happens), even now. :-)

  3. I remember reading this book when I was young and loving it. Even now, looking at the cover, I get a rush of emotions and it reminds me of my youth. Sigh.
    Wonderful, wonderful book with stellar writing.
    Thanks, Erin, for the review and the reminder.

  4. Great review! It sounds like a good read! I'll put it on my list!

  5. This was one of the first big YA/MG books! But sadly I haven't read it. I really should!