Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

Literary Events

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The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
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Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Spoilers - Our Discussion of Defending Jacob

The author of Defending Jacob, William Landay, was originally a district attorney, and it showed! The book definitely presented an insider's knowledge of courtroom methodology and especially the slant from the DA's point of view. When Linda began our discussion, she asked, "What's on trial?" thus starting us on some of the big ideas in the book. Answers included ethics, the judicial system, and parenting. Did author Landay mean to indicate so many themes in his story? Considering that this book is a best seller and that he has written two other prize-winning legal thrillers, we can probably give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was hinting at some extra meaning beyond the story.

Andrew, as narrator, provided in-depth narrative about legal trickery. This expressed a critical theme about the legal system. Vicki noted that the author was also making a statement about innocent people who are convicted on a shred of evidence. We seemed to get involved with all of the several characters in the book, even though the story was told through Andrew's eyes only. There were very few characters, but the depth of character development varied. Some of us wanted to know more about what Jacob was really thinking. Pam wished for some first-person from Jacob. Dennis felt that for the mystery story, it was probably best to keep Jacob's thoughts ... a mystery.

We found a lot of evidence of a parenting theme. Some felt strongly that Jacob's parents should have paid more attention to what Jacob was thinking and what he was doing. Mary suggested that Andrew's obsession with denying his own link to violent behavior led to denial of his son's problems from the time Jacob was very young. Laurie, Jacob's mother, was able to deny Jacob's problems while he was a child, because she had no knowledge of her husband's family history and therefore found it easy to keep from thinking Jacob might be abnormal, especially when Andrew was always glossing over Jacob's tendency toward violence. Some of the mothers in our group were outspoken about the parenting errors. Janice was irritated that Andrew and Laurie didn't put Jacob into psychotherapy. Marla thought that Jacob's parents should certainly have asked him direct questions when they learned he had the knife: where did you get the money for the knife? How and where did you get it? We talked about the knife so much, it seems that we thought it was more important than the D.A. in the book did. Dennis had a theory that the murderer in the trial was Katz, and that Jacob was getting money from Katz for sexual favors and used that money to buy the knife to protect himself from potential problems from Katz. But the trial so damaged Jacob that he turned to violence later in the book.

Defending Jacob did seem to have implied themes beyond the narrative. The story was important, but the themes of parenting and ethics and the system were subtly interwoven. We identified a fun subtle wordplay by the author. The ungrateful D.A. demonstrated the worst of trial strategy, a will to sacrifice the truth to get a guilty verdict. He had learned much of his trial technique from  Andrew but showed no mercy toward Andrew during the case. His name was pronounced "La Judas!"

Afterward: After writing this, I was discussing the book with Libby, who couldn't be at our meeting. She was curious as to how we all had answered the question, "What would you have done?" as a mother at the end of the book, if it were your child. Would you have done what Laurie did? Comments welcome below!

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