5 brilliant and heartbreaking stars :-(
This story isn't about proving Jacob is innocent or guilty. At least I didn't think so. For me this story was about fathers unconditional love for his son, no matter the outcome.
Andy Barber is a 51 year old DA. Has a wife who is a teacher and a 14 year old son, Jacob. Perfect little family. They are well known and respected in their community.
One day, he gets a call that a 14 year old boy has been found murdered in the park, not far from school, with 3 stab wounds in the chest. He takes on the case. But pretty soon it's clear that it might be conflict of interest. The police find some incriminating stuff against Jacob, and he becomes a suspect. What comes next, is absolutely heartbreaking. Andy stands down and gives up the case.
The whole story is told from fathers point of view. It's starts at the end and can feel a bit confusing. It's starts with him sitting on a witness stand, talking to a prosecutor. You get the feeling that something big went down, but you don't know what. You also don't know if Jacob has been found guilty or innocent, or what the hell happened. And that's what makes this story a complete page turner.
You get to see how their family handles the crisis. It hits hard, all of them, the father, the mother and the son. You see family falling apart. Their marriage went from:
At seventeen, I knew: my entire childhood had been just a prelude to this girl. I had never felt anything like it, and still haven't. I felt changed by her, physically. Not sexually, though we had sex everywhere, like minks, in the library stacks, in an empty classroom, her car, her family's beach house, even a cemetery.
"I am truly, deeply sorry. Truly."
"Now say you're wrong."
"Say you are wrong. Do you want it or not?"
"Hm. So, just to be clear: all I have to do is say I'm wrong and a beautiful woman will make passionate love to me."
"I didn't say passionate just regular."
"Okay, so: say I'm wrong and a beautiful woman will make love to me, completely without passion but with pretty good technique. That's the situation?"
"Pretty good technique?"
"Yes, Counselor, that's the situation."
"You are staring."
"You are my wife. I'm allowed to stare."
"Is that the rule?"
"Yes. Stare, leer, ogle, anything I want. Trust me. I'm a lawyer."
"I did not share my feelings with Laurie, and I did not try to draw out hers either, because we were all coming apart. I discouraged any sort of frank emotional talk, and soon enough I stopped noticing my wife altogether."
It's very sad and frustrating to read. At the same time, it gets you thinking: would you act any different in their situation?
The trial is absolutely brutal. Theirs and Jacob's friends are called to testify. Secrets start coming out, evidence against Jacob is piling up... It leaves them thinking "What? How did I not know that?" They start doubting each other. But the most difficult part of all comes when parents start doubting their own kid's innocence. They discover that he is not an angel that they thought he was. I would go as far as calling him a little monster. At the same time, all those things doesn't prove he is guilty, because it doesn't have any direct relevance to the case. The conversations they have, at the end of the day, behind closed doors of their bedroom, is absolutely heartbreaking.
"Do you think he did it?"
"Are you crazy? He's our son!"
Every time a "dark" thought (doubt) sneaks up on him, he tries to push it away with a memory from Jacob's childhood.
A dim memory of Jake as a three- or four-year-old boy when we had a bedtime routine: I would ask, "Who loves Jacob?" and he would answer. "Daddy does." It was the last thing we said to each other before he went to sleep each night.
I knelt beside the bed and circled my arms around Jacob and laid my head on his. I remembered again: when he was a little kid (...)
Certainly he would never allow me to hold him this way if he was awake...
The amazing thing about this story, and what made this book so hard to put it down was little cliffhangers or hints left here and there.
Laury was neither stupid nor belligerent, and in the end she paid the price - but I'm getting ahead of the story.
Or when they went to the psychiatrist and started confessing all kinds of weird stuff. It left me with "WTF?"
But the story had a lot of bright moments too. It wasn't all sad. Andy was a tough cookie. He was trying to be strong for his wife and his son. He even managed to crack a joke or two, to cheer them up. He was very cool on the witness stand, he was schooling the prosecutor like nobodies business :-). He never once lost hope, not even when the sh!t hit the fan, over and over and over again.
The story had quite a few twists. Just when you thought the whole thing was over, something else happened. But the father never lost his cool. Not even at the end.
I haven't cried reading a book in a long time, but the very last sentence, at the end of the last chapter, completely broke my heart. I'm not gonna quote it, because it will spoil the story for those who are planning on reading.
Superbly written, engaging, compelling and heartbreaking story.