Grown-up children

This is my review of Jacob I Have Loved by Katherine Paterson.

Have you read Bridge to Terabithia? It’s impossible to get through it without tearing up- I dare you! Katherine Paterson is clearly an author who knows how to bring depth and emotion to the shortest, lightest stories. So I picked up Jacob I Have Loved with high expectations. To be honest, I was let down.

The protagonist of the story is Sara Louise “Wheeze” Bradshaw, who believes that her twin sister, Caroline, gets a lot more attention than she does. Which is probably true- Caroline is a musical prodigy, while Wheeze spends most of her time fishing. But this isn’t ordinary sibling rivalry; Wheeze has nightmares of killing her sister. The situation worsens when Caroline gets a generous scholarship to pursue music lessons at a boarding school. Wheeze drops out of school and helps her father with his fishing. Eventually she works up the courage to leave her tiny town and build a life for herself elsewhere.

I had several problems with this story. Firstly, it’s quite dated and uninspiring. Wheeze studies hard to complete her high school exams and begin college, where she decides to pursue a degree in medicine. Her professor tells her that medicine is a difficult career for a woman and encourages her to switch to nursing instead… Which she does, without a second thought or regret. Secondly, I felt that Wheeze “settling down” was itself unbelievable. She spends so much time in the book struggling with her ambitions and frustration with being stuck in a small town, that I found it hard to accept that she was satisfied in another small town, even if she did have a loving family and rewarding career. Her animosity towards Caroline didn’t get closure either. The same for her inappropriate crush on a family friend who is older than her father.

The book is not all bad though. It is a good coming of age story and in a strange way reminded me that teenage angst often simply fades away, however overwhelming your troubles seem. Like in Bridge to Terabithia, Paterson shows that she can take children seriously, and that’s a rare quality in an author.

3.5/5 from me.

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