Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson was the first story to ever make me cry. I think I have leakier tear ducts now, but growing up, I don’t think I suffered enough hardships for me to feel that emotional about books or movies.
What got me in this story was the plight of the older sibling. In my family, both my parents were the youngest children in their families (of three and six siblings), and my little sister was obviously younger than me. So, growing up, there was a period of time when I felt like no one understood what it was like to be the older sister. But Louise did. And she had it worse, too, because her sister was the same age, so she didn’t have the advantages of being bigger and smarter like I did.
The hardest part for me to understand was why God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” I knew the story of Jacob and Esau from Sunday School, but it didn’t seem to fit with the God that they were teaching us. I accepted it like I accepted everything else I didn’t understand at the time (with immigrant parents, that was a lot…). Now I have a better understanding of the theology behind it, but it still trips me up a little when I read the story of Jacob and Esau now.
The book traces Louise’s attempts to free herself from Caroline’s shadow, even as she grows into adulthood.
I’m not sure about being in my sister’s shadow, but I think with a five-years-younger sister, it was easy to feel like my parents were always on her side, and that I always had to make sacrifices because of her. She was also a super cute toddler to primary schooler, which didn’t help.
We are really close now, and I’m way more spoiled than she is. She’s grown into a mature, responsible (and still cute!) young woman, and I love hanging out with her. I’m actually curious to see what she thought about this book now, although I’m pretty sure she just liked how Louise could pole a skiff and catch soft-shell crabs. (I know she’s reading, but she’s probably too shy to comment…)
Anyway, this is a great book for big sisters to relate to! It’s not as happy or fluffy as the books I usually like, but I think it is an empowering book for girls, especially those who’ve compared themselves to the popular, pretty girls (which is probably all of them). It would also be appropriate for any kid who feels jealous of their siblings or other kids to help them work through their emotions. I think I read it when I was about nine, but Amazon has it listed as 13 and up. I would say it’s good for middle school (or students at middle school level) and up.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter J.