This is my book review of Defending Jacob. It is a book I would read again. But I warn you that it is disturbing.
Andy Barber is 51, a district attorney, and married to his high school sweetheart, Laurie. They have one child, Jacob, aged 14 years old. 

A boy at Jacob’s school is murdered. And suddenly, inexplicably, the police are looking at Jacob Barber for it. There was one finger print found that was Jacob’s. And he had a knife he’d once shown a friend he’d bought. 

When his parents asked him later why he bought the knife, he told them he just wanted it. He thought it was cool.

There are two things that would decimate a parent: Your child being killed. And transversely, your child being implicated as the murderer.

One family is grieving the loss of their son. 

But the other family is also grieving. They could lose their child to prison.

The possible loss of the son they thought they’d raised, having to possibly conclude that they didn’t really know him at all. And even though he is fourteen years old, he could be tried as an adult. 

Their lives, as they knew it, will never ever be the same. 

They are already shunned and there hasn’t even been a trial yet. People write words of anger and judgment on the walls of  their home. 

One day they were normal people. And suddenly they are looked at as the parents of a murderer. And naturally they are judged accordingly. How do parents manage to raise a murderer?

Would they have asked these questions if it was someone else’s child?

There is something that district attorney Andy Barber has hidden from his family. He is the son of a murderer. He comes from a long line of criminals. But he turned out fine. He went to law school. He became a district attorney who puts criminals away. 

He finally admits this to his family, knowing this information will probably come out at his son’s trial. Does his wife now look at him differently? He knows his friends and neighbors and possibly the jury will look at him differently. 

Did he hand down a “murder” gene? Is there such a thing?

He just wanted his son to have a normal life and to have a clean slate. Which is something he never had.

But his wife wonders why, after all these years, he never thought to tell her this. 

It’s because he was ashamed.

We cannot account for the sins of our fathers/mothers. 

Andy’s father thinks a local pedophile is the murderer. But the powers that be are not really looking at him. They are bearing down hard on his son.

He has been forced into a leave of absence. His boss said he should have removed himself from the case as soon as he knew that the two boys went to the same school. It was a conflict of interest.

He also did the unthinkable. He found a knife in Jacob’s room and he disposed of it. The defense attorney is privy to this, and if he is found out, he will be implicated for disposing of possible evidence. 

Of course he never thought he’d do such a thing. But this is his son.

Human nature can be reduced to a primordial survival instinct when faced with such decisions. Of course you’d want to protect your child.

But how far do you think you would go?


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  1. I have wanted to read this book for awhile and just haven't gotten around to it yet. I completely agree that we can't possibly know what we would do in a situation until we find ourselves in it. When crises and tragedies befall us, we can't always act unemotionally. Good discussion, Brenda.

    1. I think some may be uncomfortable with the discussion topic. I know it's unsettling. But I think we would benefit from putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, as in a circumstance such as this. Life is always stranger than fiction.

  2. Cataclysmic is the word … and mind-bending wondering what a parent would do! .. having said that I am quite disgusted with the mother of the 'afflunenza' teen!

    1. Not sure what you're referring to. But the book gives you an altogether different feeling about the families of the defendant. After all, they didn't do anything. But they will have to live with the outcome.

    1. I'm maybe halfway thought the book. I don't know if it's going to be Jacob or this other guy the father is fixated on. Or someone else altogether.

  3. Wow! What a thing to have to consider, but any one of us who have children could go through the very same thing tomorrow! I think I would stand on the side of my child, I would refuse to believe such a thing. But yet I know in the corner of my mind I might wonder, is my child capable of such a thing? That sounds like a very good book.

    1. From what I read in this book, and the author is an attorney, people going to jail and people getting off is more of a crap shoot than we think. We like to think justice is served. But he makes it sound like it's very iffy business.

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