Jacob Have I Loved

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Jacob Have I Loved
Jacob Have I Loved book cover
Author Katherine Paterson
Illustrator Rylea Brown,Dylan Derozan
Country United States
Language English
Genre Realistic Fiction
Publisher Crowell
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 263
ISBN 0-380-56499-8
OCLC 7868696
LC Class PZ7.P273 Jac 1980

Jacob Have I Loved is a novel by Katherine Paterson that won the 1981 Newbery Medal. The title refers to the sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau in the Jewish and Christian Bible, and comes directly from Romans 9:13: "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

The novel follows the story of the Bradshaws, a family who depends on the father, Truitt Bradshaw, and his crabbing/fishing business on his boat, the Portia Sue. Truitt's two daughters, Sara Louise and Caroline, are twins, and Caroline has always been the favorite. She is prettier and more talented, and better at receiving more attention not only from their parents but also from others in the community.

The book traces Louise's attempts to free herself from Caroline's shadow, even as she grows into adulthood.


This story takes place during the early 1940s on the small, fictional island of Rass in the Chesapeake Bay.

Plot summary[edit]

This story starts as a young girl named Sara Louise "Wheeze" Bradshaw who lives on Rass Island in Maryland. She struggles to get away from her sister Caroline's shadow. Caroline is prettier and more talented and gets all the attention not only from her family, but from the community as well. In the book, Sara Louise tries not to be around her. She tends to be around her friend, McCall "Call" Purnell, with whom she crabs.

After finishing college, Sara Louise goes to work in a small town as a nurse and midwife. She eventually marries a widowed father. On a snowy, winter night, she assists in delivering twins. The mother has the first one, a boy, safely. When the second one comes out, it is a small and cold girl. Since she doesn't have an incubator, she rushes it to the fireside. She then realizes she forgot about the boy and asks about his whereabouts. He is in the basket, sleeping, where his grandmother put him. The twins remind her of her and Caroline. She tells the family to keep him warm and love him. In her mind, she does not want him to end up like her, sleeping in a basket, alone and forgotten. She finally finds her joy, happiness, and herself in this small town.


  • Sara Louise Bradshaw

Sara Louise helps her father through the crabbing season. She is a few minutes older than her twin sister, Caroline. As she grows older, she becomes frustrated with the unceasing attention Caroline receives and attempts to become more feminine — to no avail. After growing up in the oppressive situation of playing second-fiddle to Caroline, she eventually leaves the island to move to a small town in the mountains that she has always wanted to see.

  • Caroline Bradshaw

Caroline is perfect. While she and Sara Louise are twins, she is considered the "miracle child" because she was near death during birth. She is an amazing singer and pianist, and she is considered more intelligent and feminine than Sara Louise. She tends to tease her, and she made up "Wheeze," a nickname Sara Louise despises. She went to a music school after she graduated from high school on her home island, then goes to Juilliard in New York. She marries McCall Purnell, Sara Louise's longtime friend.

  • McCall Purnell

McCall, also known as Call, is a boy who works on the waters with Sara Louise because his father died. He works with the Captain after he arrives. He ends up going to war, and when he comes back to Rass, he marries Caroline.

  • Hiram Wallace

Also known as "The Captain", Hiram is an old man that used to live on the island as a boy but moved away. He comes back and befriends Call and Sara Louise. She falls in love with him.

  • Susan Bradshaw

Susan is Sara Louise and Caroline's mother and Truitt's wife. She is an educated woman who used to be a teacher.

  • Grandma Bradshaw

A very religious woman, Grandma can be strict and hard to get along with. She loves the Lord, but hates the water. She believes the Captain is a heathen.

  • Truitt Bradshaw

Truitt is Sara Louise and Caroline's father and Susan's husband. He is a waterman and war veteran.


Jacob Have I Loved received favorable reviews. Booklist called it "An intense, moving portrayal"[1] while the School Library Journal found "All libraries will benefit from owning this outstanding telling of a remarkable tale.‘" [1] The ALAN Review wrote "This novel is indeed a classic, and the beauty of it is that it's so readable for and appropriate to the older junior-high student."[2]


  1. ^ a b "Moon over Manifest". http://www.buffalolib.org. Buffalo & Eric County public Library. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Patricia A. Liddie (1994). "Vision of Self in Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved". The ALAN Review (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) 21 (3). Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
Preceded by
A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
A Visit to William Blake's Inn