Study Guide

Jacob Have I Loved Summary

By Katherine Paterson

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Jacob Have I Loved Summary

Sara Louise Bradshaw was born on Rass Island, but neither she nor her sister will die there. Let her explain ...

It's the summer of 1941, and Louise is 13 years old. She has a best friend named Call who never laughs at her jokes; she has a grandmother who loves to quote vicious Bible verses to anyone who'll listen; and she has a twin sister, Caroline, who does everything beautifully and always manages to steal the spotlight from Louise. Caroline has been hogging all of the attention since the moment she was born because she nearly died, while Louise was perfectly healthy. Ugh … Caroline.

When a mysterious older man comes to town, Louise and Call manage to make friends with him while trying to guess all kinds of weird secrets about his past. Eventually, Caroline is able to ruin this, too, when she makes friends with this man—whom they call the Captain—after helping him get rid of some old house cats. Louise dreams of getting off Rass Island, but it's Caroline who gets the chance when the Captain offers to pay for her to attend a private music school in Baltimore. Seriously, Caroline?

Call leaves to join the Navy and fight in World War II, and Louise is left behind to help her father on his crab and oyster boat. When the war ends in 1945, Call returns home and announces—surprise, surprise—he's going to marry Caroline. Now, this is just getting silly.

Louise has to wrestle with her own issues and finally decides, after a near-fight with her mother, that she has to leave Rass Island. She's always wanted to be a doctor and that's what she's going to do, darn it. No more Caroline to overshadow her—she's going to live life on her own terms instead of always feeling like she's second fiddle.

So, Louise leaves and ends up becoming a nurse-midwife in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. There, she helps the people in town and meets her future husband. One night, she assists in the birth of twins and helps to nurse the younger, struggling twin back to health. In that moment, she's finally able to forgive her sister and make peace with herself, too. Aw. We love a happy ending.

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