BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review of Defending Jacob by William Landay

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Buying Links: Amazon     The Book Depository

Book Blurb (from goodreads):

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive. Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

He looked off towards the trees. "Do you know what bothers me, Andy? About being here, in this place? It's that for a while-for a few minutes, maybe just a few seconds, I don't know how long-but for some amount of time my son was alive here. He was out there lying in some fucking wet leaves, bleeding to death. And I wasn't here with him. I was supposed to be here to help him.That's what a father does. But I didn't know. I was off somewhere, in the car, in my office, talking on the phone, whatever it was I was doing. Do you understand that, Andy? Do you have any idea how that feels? Can you even imagine it? I saw him get born, I saw him take his first steps and...learn to ride a bike. I took him to his first day of school. But I wasn't here to help him when he died. Can you imagine how that feels?"
 Reviewed By: Bea

My Thoughts:

I admit, one of the attractions for me about this book was that it's set in Massachusetts, the state I grew up in and currently live in. Sadly, it doesn't have much Massachusetts flavor though I did recognize the place names, and I appreciated that Landay used the local name for one of the state highways and not the official name (You can always tell a tourist or a newbie to the area by what name they call that highway).

The book also got off to a slow start. The action starts off quickly enough but the first hundred or so pages are very, very dry, and I kept putting the book down. Then it slowly picked up and I ended staying up all night, until 2:34AM, reading it. Once Landay gets beyond the details of how the DA's office works  and begins exploring family dynamics and community dynamics, the story becomes engrossing. (I kept thinking of Jane from Dear Author as I read this, as I know she can be very picky about the accurate portrayal of lawyers and the law. I kept wondering what she'd have to say. The author is a former Massachusetts DA so it's presumably accurate.) It's told entirely from his perspective, so we learn details as he does and follow his thought processes. We feel his pain as he does what he thinks is best to prove Jacob not guilty, and cracks begin emerging in his family. As I read about what his family endured within their town and the way that friends and acquaintances reacted, my heart broke a little. The conclusion of the trial was a bit deus ex machina, and the final ending was both a surprise and yet not. Landay dropped subtle hints throughout the story so that I thought I knew where the story was going but I was only partially right. Despite the slow start, the book was fascinating and engrossing, well worth the read.

I received a hardcover from the publisher for review.

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