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BKMT READING GUIDES
Defending Jacob: A Novel
by William Landay
Kindle Edition : 432 pages
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star
“A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.
Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.
Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.
It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.
How far would you go?
Praise for Defending Jacob
“Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times
“Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post
“Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People
“The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post
“Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe
“Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment Weekly
BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler.
Editorial ReviewAmazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: A fast, compelling, and compulsively readable courtroom drama, Defending Jacob tells the story of a district attorneyâ??s son who is accused of killing a classmate. As the father attempts to prove his sonâ??s innocence, Landay explores uncomfortable territory: can a tendency toward violence be inherited? Is the capacity for murder a genetic disposition? The author, a former district attorney, gets the taut nuances just right, capturing the subtleties of a trial in a packed courtroom, where a small rustle or murmur can signify a lot. In the end Landay pulls off a clever plot device that doesnâ??t reveal itself until the final pages. --Neal Thompson
Featured Guest Review: Chevy Stevens on Defending Jacob
Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Still Missing and Never Knowing.
From the first few pages of Defending Jacob, I knew this book was special. More than an exciting courtroom drama that combines the best elements of a legal and psychological thriller, it also delves into the heart of a family, and will rip yours out in the process.
When a young boy is found brutally murdered in the woods in a peaceful New England town, his body hastily covered with leaves, the community is shaken to its core. No one more so than Andy Barber, a well-respected assistant district attorney whose fourteen-year-old son, Jacob, went to school with the boy. Sure, Jacob is a typical moody teenager, hiding in his room all day with his headphones and lap top, but Andy loves him more than anything in this world--and would do anything to protect him.
While Andy's wife, Laurie, struggles with the possibility that there's a killer on the loose and their own son could be next, Andy's determined to find the culprit and bring him to justice. He immerses himself in a maelstrom of angry parents demanding answers, police hell-bent on making an arrest, and the complicated lives of teenagers, with their own secrets, and reasons for keeping them.
When, in a stunning turn of events, Jacob is arrested for the crime, both Andy and Laurie are stalwart in their defense of their son: there's no way their child could've committed this terrible act. As more shocking facts are revealed and lies uncovered, Andy is pushed to the edge and his twenty-year marriage tested. Beautiful Laura, his college sweetheart and love of his life, begins to fade in front of his eyes, crumbling under the pressure of the trial, the public accusations, and the weight of her own doubts--in her son and her husband. When truths about Andy's past comes to surface, he must chose between the life he thought he'd left behind, and the father he wants to be.
Defending Jacob raises the question: how far would you go to protect your family? But it also leaves you wondering if anyone could answer that question, and whether we really know what we're capable of when push comes to shove.Let's pray we never have to find out.
Featured Guest Review: Phillip Margolin on Defending Jacob
Phillip Margolin has been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a school teacher, and is the author of 15 New York Times bestsellers. He spent a quarter century as a criminal defense attorney during which he handled thirty homicide cases, including twelve death penalty cases, and argued at the United States Supreme Court. He is a co-founder of Chess for Success, a non-profit that uses chess to teach elementary school children study skills. His latest novel, Capitol Murder will be released in April, 2012.
One perk of being a bestselling author is that you are sent advance reading copies (ARCs) of books by first time authors, or published authors whose editors believe have written a breakout novel. The ARC is sent by the writer's editor in hopes that you will write a "blurb," which is a sentence or two praising the book that can be used in advertisements. The books I blurb range from fun reads to very good reads. Then there is the rare book that knocks my socks off. William Landay's Defending Jacob is one of these gems. It is a legal thriller, but so are To Kill a Mocking Bird, Snow Falling on Cedars and Anatomy of a Murder. Defending Jacob, like these classics, separates itself from the pack because it is also a searing work of literary fiction.
At the heart of Landay's exceptional novel is a parent's worst nightmare. Assistant district attorney Andy Barber, his wife, Laurie, and their teenage son, Jacob, are living an idyllic existence in a middle class Massachusetts suburb until one of Jacob's classmates is stabbed to death in the picturesque park where the locals jog, walk their dogs and picnic. It soon becomes clear that Jacob is the prime suspect and the Barbers have to confront the possibility that the child they have doted from birth may be a sociopathic killer.
Andy takes a forced leave of absence from his job and helps defend the son he loves from a charge he cannot believe is true. Is he engaging in self-deception? How far will he go to protect his family? Laurie wonders if something she did as a parent has created a monster and her guilt destroys her. And then there is Jacob. Is he a typical angst filled teenager or a psychopathic monster? Landay skillfully keeps the reader guessing about Jacob's culpability and true nature up to the shocking final chapters.
What makes Defending Jacob special is the way Landay gives the reader the twists, turns and surprises found in the best legal thrillers while making its centerpiece the tragedy faced by a normal family who are thrust into a nightmare.
ExcerptMr. Logiudice: State your name, please.
Witness: Andrew Barber.
Mr. Logiudice: What do you do for work, Mr. Barber?
Witness: I was an assistant district attorney in this county for 22 years.
Mr. Logiudice: "Was." What do you do for work now?
Witness: I suppose you'd say I'm unemployed.
In April 2008, Neal Logiudice finally subpoenaed me to appear before the grand jury. By then it was too late. Too late for his case, certainly, but also too late for Logiudice. His reputation was already damaged beyond repair, and his career along with it. A prosecutor can limp along with a damaged reputation for a while, but his colleagues will watch him like wolves and eventually he will be forced out, for the good of the pack. I have seen it many times: an ADA is irreplaceable one day, forgotten the next. ... view entire excerpt...
Discussion Questions1. How would you have handled this situation if you were Andy? Would you make the same choices he made? Where would you differ the most?
2. Before and during the trial, how would you have handled the situation if you were Laurie? Do you feel she made strong choices as a mother and a wife?
3. Is Andy a good father? Why or why not?
4. Do you believe Jacob is guilty?
5. Is Jacob a product of his upbringing? Do you think he is he a violent person because his environment makes him violent, or do you think he has violent inclinations since birth?
6. Bulleying is such a hot topic in today's media. How did the author incorporate it into the story, and do you think it's role had anything to do with Jacob's disposition? How do you think people should stop adolescent bullying?
7. How much of a factor did Jacob's age play into your sympathies for him or lack thereof? If Jacob were seventeen, would you view him differently? What about nine?
8. Do you think Neal Logiudice acts ethically in this novel? What about Andy? What about Laurie?
9. What was the most damning piece of evidence against Jacob? Was there anything that you felt exonerated him?
10. If Jacob hadn't been accused, how do you think his life would have turned out? What kind of a man do you think he would grow up to be?
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