Monday, August 19, 2013
Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay
about book (from author's site):
At home, Andy Barber is a quiet family man, a devoted husband and father. At work, he is a trusted senior prosecutor, the District Attorney’s right hand and master trial lawyer. When a teenaged boy is found dead in the woods near Barber’s suburban home, naturally he takes on the investigation, as he has countless homicides before. But the case may be Barber’s undoing: in an unexpected swerve, Barber’s own 14-year-old son, Jacob, is accused of the murder.
The boy insists he is innocent, and Barber rallies to his son’s defense — as any father would, he thinks, as any father must. But defending Jacob exacts a terrible price. Neighbors lock their doors against him. Jacob’s classmates refuse to talk. Barber’s marriage begins to crumble as his beloved wife Laurie buckles under the relentless pressure of suspicion. Finally, as Jacob’s trial intensifies, Barber faces a trial of his own, in which he is forced to confront his own secret history, a past he thought he’d buried long ago.
OMG! This book was crazy good - it had me on the edge of my seat!! I did not put this book down until I read the last page and even then I couldn't believe what I was reading. Seriously! I did not see that ending coming at all! Landay has written an engrossing novel that explores the concept of the "murder gene" - an idea that through genetics some people are more prone to violent outbursts (even murder). I'm not sure how much stock I would place in such an idea, considering that a lot of people endure violent, abusive relationships at the hand of their parents and they don't go around abusing their children (and neither do their grandchildren). So, I am a bit skeptical, but nonetheless, I couldn't help but consider the ramifications of such a gene and how it would affect a family.
Actually, now that I think about it, this book did make me think of The Dinner by Herman Koch - it pretty much relied on the same concept to explain the son's horribly violent behavior (he murdered a homeless woman in the book). In The Dinner, the son inherited this gene from his his father, who was on-off medication and often expressed such apathetic and truly inappropriate feelings and behavior; and therefore was more concerned with his son's future than the woman he had killed. Pretty crazy, eh? Well, in the Landay book, it is determined that Jacob inherited the gene from his father, who had inherited it from his father. Jacob's dad, Andy, had hidden this family genetic mutation from his wife, because he believed she would have been repulsed by him. You see, Andy's father murdered a girl and wound up serving a life sentence in prison - he's the dirty secret that Andy keeps to himself. Of course, with his son on trial, this private information is now up for grabs and weighs heavily on Andy's conscience. Is he responsible for what has happened to his son?
Well, I don't want to give anything away, so I'm going to end my post. Just know that this book was an engrossing read that I would label 'unputdownable'. And, I would definitely recommend Defending Jacob to fans of crime, suspense, and mystery novels - this book will have you glued to your seat!