Monday, December 01, 2008

Newbery: Jacob Have I Loved

I know I read Jacob Have I Loved sometime in middle school, because it was popular among the girls in my class (probably because of the title). I didn’t remember that it was set in the Chesapeake Bay (the fictional Rass Island is based upon Smith Island). I also didn’t remember that the main character had a crush on an elderly captain. Because…eww, as a middle schooler would say (yes, yes, it was innocent, totally unrequited, and based upon the fact the adults in her life were more interested in her twin sister).

Louise’s twin sister, Caroline, is the epitome of perfect. Perfect piano skills, perfect soprano, perfect angelic looks. Caroline was a delicate baby, and no one has ever forgotten that.

Louise, on the other hand, is more or less treated like the red-headed stepchild. She’s more at ease crabbing with her father (and moping about Caroline, but that’s another story). Living on Rass Island, a remote island in the Chesapeake Bay, in the 1940s means that not a lot goes on or changes on the island. All that changes when a mysterious man appears on the island.

The mysterious captain turns out to be a long-lost son of Rass Island, and as Louise’s family gets to know him better, turns out to be a romantic and tragic character. Unlike other people, he always addresses Louise by her true name (and not by her childhood nickname, Wheeze) and takes her seriously. This leads Louise to have conflicted feelings toward him, which she acknowledges as being unusual (and never acted upon, of course).

The story follows Caroline and Louise through married life and careers. They forge separate paths and never really establish a close sisterly bond. The story is very thoughtful and quiet; like the fictional island, there’s not much action in the story. Mature readers, particularly those interested in stories set in Maryland or on islands, would best appreciate the story.

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