Jacob’s List

[openbook booknumber=”0764203266″][rating:3/5]

When you lose a child it is considered “the worst loss”. For the Nolans the loss of their son doesn’t just risk destroying their world, it also risks tearing them apart, as he was the only thing that was keeping them together.

When I saw this book I assumed it was going to be a book about a married couple completing the things on their son’s list and going on a lot of adventures together in his memory. Pretty naive considering how the book turned out.


You want to what?!” She and Michael had blurted it out in unison as they stared down at the typewritten list.
       “Do these things before I settle down.” He weighted the piece of paper down with the ketchup bottle and then took another bite of burger talking while he chewed. “Actually, I want to do a lot more – but I narrowed it down to ten for now.”
       Pam set her own sandwich down and read the list again with a combination of anger and terror. Hang-gliding. Rock-climbing. Sky-diving. “Isn’t there something you’d like to do that isn’t potentially lethal?”

It can take up to two years before parents can even think about getting over the loss of their child. In Jacob’s List this is shortened a little for literary license but the very real grief and devastation that these parents felt. A lot of my expectations were blown away by it.

Keep in mind this is a Christian novel. There were a lot of Christian themes and both parents are profoundly affected by a transformation in Christ that is one of the main themes of the book. I appreciated that a lot of the biblical conversion stuff was saved until later in the novel so that you could get wrapped up in the story first. I was irked that it was implied that the only way they could really expect full healing and forgiveness was through Christ, a common Christian theme but I personally am open to other options if it helps people.

I also personally felt that the African American character was painted and wielded very awkwardly by the author. I think the character was depicted in an over the top manner in an attempt to accentuate the novel’s racial diversity. This was damaged a bit by the fact that, when it came right down to it, the Christian acquaintance was more of a help in her time of her need than her (non-Christian) friend for life. There were also a few other subtle snubs to this (sexually active in a committed relationship, feminist) “friend” throughout that I didn’t really appreciate.

As for the positives, I did think that the depression and suffering experienced by the Nolans was very well drawn and very realistically portrayed. You understood how devastating this loss was for them, and could empathize with their suffering. Even shortened as it was their process of healing was very believable and their quest towards forgiveness was portrayed as realistically difficult and painful to achieve.

Any Christian that has experienced the loss of a loved one would appreciate this book. Those that aren’t Christians and have no desire to be will probably find it as patronizing and difficult as the parents initially did. Despite that, Jacob’s List teaches that we each should do the things we want to do while we are alive, “live it up” and sky dive, or rock climb, or take that one trip you’ve always meant to. You never know when a day might turn out to be your last. Reach out, help others and live life while you have it.

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