As we gathered to discuss Defending Jacob, the room was filled with chattering and energy. Several members noted that the book had been easy to read and kept them engaged. One new member said she was glad she read the book, but she couldn’t say she liked it. Another was impressed by the realistic picture of our justice system. Yet another felt the book was full of holes and too much foreshadowing. One new member was disappointed by the ending, even angry. Perhaps, like the parents in the story, she had wanted the twist to be exoneration.
Does a murder gene exist? Which plays a larger roll in determining behavior, genetics or environment? We were mixed in our opinions. We asked: What does the author intended for us to get from his novel? Why does it matter? This is fiction, a novel, something to be read for pleasure. True. But many of us want more and our book club challenges us like a lateral thinking puzzle.
We discussed the reliability of the narrator, especially a character who had the “murder gene.” One member suggested that the Grand Jury interview sections were imagined rather than real. Another wondered about the mother—we only heard her side of the story through the narrator. Some felt that the mother’s actions in the end were admirable; others considered her insane. We had several conversations going on at once and the enthusiasm was palpable.
The biggest surprise, though, was when one member mentioned that our discussion had actually made her dislike the book! Quite the opposite of the usual response! Books, like people, are full of surprises. Our book club keeps us guessing! Our next book, Round House by Louise Erdrich, is a National Book Award winner. Give it, and us, a try and join the discussion!
- Other works discussed:
- The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
- The Sopranos (Television Series)