Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Jacob's Ladder" by Brian Keaney

I found Jacob's Ladder while hunting a selection for this month's Book Club meeting. The title caught my eye first, making me wonder if it was in any way related to the 1990 freak show of a movie by the same name (it wasn't). I flipped through the first few pages and was intrigued by the the idea of the main character waking up in the middle of a deserted field with no recollection of how he got there. (Remind you of college? Yeah, well, it's nothing like that.) The book met a couple of the more important Book Club criteria (it was cheap, and Books-A-Million had multiple copies on the shelves), so I decided we would give it a try.

It was an interesting and fast read. There were plenty of questions to keep me turning the pages--why were the children in Locus and how had they arrived there? What had happened to their memories, and when might they be able to return to the families they knew they must have loved but could not remember?

But even with the absorbing aura of mystery, I'm afraid this book won't evoke the best Book Club discussion. The story had immense potential, but it was only spun into a single thread. As I read, I yearned for the complexity and depth Keaney could have given it with further development. I wanted strands of many colors woven into a tapestry. Instead, the straightforward and unadorned narrative reminded me of The Alchemist. Of course, Jacob's Ladder was written for kids, so I probably shouldn't complain about its simplicity. For what it is, it's a great story and is well-written.

The author has his own blog and you can read an interesting bit about the book here. And now I am off to book club! I hope you have as much fun tonight as I'm about to.


Kathy said...

My 7-yr-old read this entire book yesterday. She had a few questions at the end (SPOILER--she wasn't sure how Jacob and Aysha had died) but she thought it was a pretty good book.

Kathy said...

Apparently my 7-yr-old isn't the only one who was uncertain as to how Jacob and Aysha had died. If you have happened upon this post with the same question, here is what I remember (bearing in mind that it's been two months since I read the book, and my memory is not impressive. And, of course, SPOILER ALERT once again):

Aysha was on a train with her dad. Jacob was succumbing to peer pressure and being a delinquent by piling lumber and debris on the train tracks. This caused the train to wreck, killing Aysha (and her dad? I can't remember if that was mentioned). I am not sure if the train wreck also killed Jacob, or if he later committed suicide out of guilt. As far as I recall, that was left open to interpretation.

Hope that helps you. Had you come to the same conclusion?