“Jacob Have I Loved” by Katherine Paterson

As part of my summer reading bender Summer of Shelf Discovery, Chapter 4 of Lizzie Skurnick’s reading memoir, Shelf Discovery, is “Read ‘Em and Weep: Tearing Up the Pages” about the books we read (and re-read) that made us cry. The first book of the chapter and the first one I chose to re-read was Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, a book which has followed me through all my moves.

Written from an adult perspective looking back on childhood, it’s narrated by Louise, the elder of twins who resented her younger, prettier, musically talented twin. There was a part in the middle about an inappropriate crush that I’d utterly forgotten. As a girl, I identified fiercely with Louise, and found myself right back with my younger self as I read this, which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Joan Didion, from “On Keeping a Notebook”

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

This book is a perfect example of a characters who DOESN’T forget. It’s complicated, sweet, and sad without being a message or a SAD EVENT novel. I loved it all over again.

6 Responses to ““Jacob Have I Loved” by Katherine Paterson”

  1. Patricia Says:

    Even more upset with my school and small town librarians. It was bad enough that they never sent me in the direction of Cormier and that they kept some of Blume’s best books away from me. But to be the young girl I was and to have been denied this book is a tragedy. I loved this book now on my first reading of it and I know I would have loved it then. I was reminded of myself so many times, that I think it would have been a comfort in my self-doubt plagued youth. My favorite line was when Sara Louise’s husband says “God in heaven’s been raising you for this valley from the day you were born.” Sometimes I feel like that … although I don’t have a place because we move so often, I feel like I “have been raised” for this life. It would have been nice to have thought - back then - that I had a destiny.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Oh, Patricia, it sounds as if this reading project is bringing as much sadness as pleasure. But, as I felt when I finally read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre–better late than never, right?

  3. carolyn Says:

    coincidentally I JUST underlined that same Didion passage in the creative writing guide we are using with the kids at my summer job.

  4. Patricia Says:

    Not sadness .. just disappointment that I didn’t read these earlier. So happy that you have helped me make time for them now so I can share some of them with my boys.

  5. girldetective Says:

    I think it’s impossible to not have that passage engraved on the soul after one reads it.

  6. hopeinbrazil Says:

    I just read a book of Katherine Paterson’s essays/lectures on reading and writing and wanted to read one of her books. Thanks for highlighting this one.