Sunday Burgs book review
Reviewed by Bill Gardner, retired educator of Floyd.
“Defending Jacob,” a novel by William Landay, builds suspense as it uncovers the fabric of a family and a community. Andy Barber is an assistant district attorney with 22 years of experience who lives in an upper income Boston suburb. His position is somewhat tenuous due to the political ambitions of his boss and another assistant. Although he has been married for many years to Laurie, he has never told her about his ancestry. Their son, Jacob, initially appears to be a regular kid trying to find his niche in an adolescent world.
The Barber family’s world comes crashing down when Jacob is charged with the murder of his classmate, Ben Rifkin, in a municipal park on the way to school. All at once a family that has been so much a part of the social structure of the neighborhood is shunned and isolated from the rest of the community. We discover that Jacob already felt that way in school. In an interview, one of his classmates said that “unless you are ethnic, gay, on a team or play an instrument you don’t fit in.” Jacob was only seen as a regular kid in school with only one or two close friends.
Another major component of the book relates to a psychiatrist, Dr. Vogel, hired by the defense to assess Jacob. With this comes an investigation of behavioral genetics – nature vs. nurture or does Jacob have a genetic predisposition to do evil?
This is a multi-layered novel, not in the least formulaic, that has many twists until the final page. It also leaves one with much to think about related to the plot and to the lengths one will go to protect his/her family.
This book has been compared to “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow, a book I enjoyed thoroughly. Both books explore the inner workings of the court, develop their characters well, keep you in suspense throughout, and give you much to think about once you have turned the last page.
Reviewed by Alison M. Armstrong, member of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library Board of Trustees and collection development librarian at Radford University.
Anna Quindlin’s latest book, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” is primarily about her experiences and life lessons in her role as a woman, mother and wife. This is her fourteenth book. She also wrote articles in New York Times in her column, “Public and Private,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Her column, “Last Word,” appeared in Newsweek from 2000-2009.
For women of a certain age, around 50-60, they may find many parallels in their lives as they reflect on their past and consider the future. For others, they may glimpse pieces of their mother’s lives or their own futures. Quindlin shares her thoughts on a wide variety of topics from marriage, the proliferation of stuff in our lives, the necessity of girlfriends and coming to terms with her body.
She talks about parenting and her relationships with her children as they become adults. Each chapter is a short story and one of her best is titled “Expectations.” She talks about how, in such a short period of time, women have some a long way. Things have changed so dramatically so quickly, young women often don’t recognize how much things have changed and those who came before to pave the way.
Many of her stories have a feminist tilt to them and others have commented that her thoughts about Botox do not fit with the rest of her beliefs. I, however, did not see this as a contradiction. She uses Botox in an effort to soften the wrinkle between her eyebrows that she feels makes her look cranky. In using Botox, she hopes to look less cranky. This seems perfectly acceptable to me. Her book is a string of stories that illuminate her life done with eloquence and wisdom. In the end, she contemplates her future, how she will live out her days. Her future looks bright.
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