Study Guide

Susan Bradshaw in Jacob Have I Loved

By Katherine Paterson

Susan Bradshaw

Louise's mother, Susan, is a pretty amazing person. She came to Rass Island as a young schoolteacher and fell in love with a waterman named Truitt. The rest, as they say, is history.

Louise never really gets the attraction, though—she sees her mom as a lady who's educated and sophisticated and could have done anything with her life. Her father? Yeah, not so much. The two of them clearly love each other a ton, though, sharing an inability to feel bad about their lives, which seems to make their marriage work.

This is most clear when Louise has her big life-changing conversation with her mom, the one in which she pours her thoughts out to her mom after Caroline has left the island:

"You could have done anything, been anything you wanted."

"But I am what I wanted to be," she said, letting her arms fall to her sides. "I chose. No one made me become what I am."

"That's sickening," I said.

"I'm not ashamed of what I have made of my life."
(18.31-34)

Susan chose the life she wanted, and she doesn't regret it. Other people—even her own daughter—might think she's wasted her life, but she doesn't see it that way. She loves her husband, she loves her daughters, and she loves her home. She has no regrets. Susan is a testament to the fact that not every one will turn out to be a famous star like Caroline. Some people just live average, yet very happy, lives. Louise finally realizes that she can be one of those happy people. Yay.

It's Susan who gives Louise the courage to finally leave Rass. In the end, she tells her daughter that she can go if that's what she wants, but with one caveat:

"I chose the island," she said. "I chose to leave my own people and build a life for myself somewhere else. I certainly wouldn't deny you that same choice. But," and her eyes held me if her arms did not, "oh, Louise, we will miss you, your father and I."

I wanted so to believe her. "Will you really?" I asked. "As much as you miss Caroline?"

"More," she said, reaching up and ever so lightly smoothing my hair with her fingertips.
(18.44-46)

This is all Louise needs to know. For the first time in her life, someone has told her how valuable and important she is. Yes, even more than Caroline. Hey, even if it's just a tiny bit, Louise will take it.

This is probably why Louise christens her infant patient in the end with the middle name Susan. It's a saint's name, she thinks, and she's about right—her mom is pretty saintly. She bears all kinds of hardships without ever complaining or crying or freaking out, plus it's through her that Louise realizes she can be who she wants to be. She doesn't have to spend her life feeling bad anymore.

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