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"Defending Jacob," by William Landay

Jul 7, 2015 | Books

Jacob Barber is a quiet, taciturn 14-year-old.  In other words, a teenage boy.  His father, Andy, is well-know and respected as a DA and as a member of the community.  So, it’s an almost laughable shock when Jacob is accused of murdering a classmate.

Of course, Andy and Laurie, Jake’s mother, don’t believe for a second there is any truth to the accusation.  The fingerprint found on the dead boy’s sweatshirt has a simple explanation and it is absurd to think their son is a murderer.  But Andy knows he will have to present a defense.  As he begins to build one, he uncovers more and more disturbing evidence that his son is not the boy he thought he was.  And Andy himself has a secret that makes him frightened for his son.

Landay does an incredible job of showing the strength of a parent’s love as well as the blindness it brings.  Andy will do anything to save his son.  He continues to proclaim Jacob’s innocence, even as the evidence against Jacob becomes overwhelming.  And yet, it is believable.  The way Landay writes it, you know he’s wrong, but you believe Andy really does think his son is innocent.  His utter denial is so clear that even he has suspicions, but still, he believes in his son.  Laura admits the possible truth – to her eventual undoing – but she can’t get her husband to face it.  That Landay continues to make it believable is a mark of a great writer.

It may sound like this would be a dreary read, but it’s not at all.  I highly recommend this book.

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