Monday, January 12, 2015

Defending Jacob

When Nicholas Sparks and "People" magazine blurb a book, I get worried.  Spark's popularity cannot be denied, and many people look to pop magazines for book reviews.  That's all good - just not my kind of reading these days.  I welcomed the cold snap as it gave me a reason to spend however long it would take to work my way through what I suspected would be a disappointing read.  I was wrong.  Sure, the basic premise is one that has been batted around in movies and recently in a number of fiction offerings, but William Landay's approach covered all bases - logos, ethos, and pathos.  Nicely done.

If you have seen "The Bad Seed" a movie from the late 50's or so, you will find similarities in this plot.  An ADA's fourteen-year-old son is accused of murder.  Because of the father's legal connection, the story includes a lot of smart narrative about the legal process.  No insults here - just solid legal information and analysis.  Balance that against the parent's gripping internal struggle to believe in their son's goodness even when the evidence points in another direction.  In fact, it has been pointing in another direction for years, and their believable parental blindness would not allow them to be open to the possibility that their child was born evil.

Nature V. nurture is the common theme in this book and in "The Bad Seed" the compelling black and white film starring blond braided Patty McCormack as Rhoda, as slick a child as you will ever see.  As strong as this book is, the author went a little Picoult at the end, writing two unneeded incidents in the final pages. Landay beat me over the head with the conclusion he had  already led me to before those last way too obvious  pages.  But, just in case I missed something, he went ahead and confirmed that conclusion for me not once, but twice. 

I prefer books that are driven by strong characters rather than by plot or theme. Defending Jacob is clearly theme driven, but there are several characters that are mulit-dimentional, and therefore interesting.  they are flawed, just like all of us, and therefore they are relateable.   Worth reading...

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