Literature / Jacob Have I Loved

Jacob Have I Loved is a 1981 Newbery Medal-winning novel by Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia.

The men of the fictional island of Rass in the Chesapeake Bay have always "followed the water" by becoming crabbers/fishers, starting businesses that their descendants can continue for generations. The novel follows Louise, a daughter of the old Bradshaw family and the older of twins. Her twin sister, Caroline, is everything Louise isn't — beautiful, talented, feminine, and is such considered the favorite. Over the course of the novel, Louise tries her best to break out of her sister's shadow, out of what the people of Rass expect from her, and ultimately, what she expects out of herself.


  • Body Motifs: Sara Louise thinks that the hands, not the eyes, are the windows to the soul.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Call eventually marries Caroline.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Trudy Braxton has sixteen cats and doesn't have the capability to care for them all, hence the total mess her house is in.
  • Cool Old Guy: The Captain.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Not as blatant as Bridge to Terabithia, but Louise and Caroline's father Truitt doesn't make it to the end.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: The beautiful, popular Caroline is described as blonde; her plainer twin sister Louise is a brunette.
  • Gold Digger: Discussed when the Captain says that he won't marry Trudy Braxton because people will think he did it for the money her father left her.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: With booksmart, streetsmart Louise as the "smart" one, and pretty, talented Caroline as the "pretty" one.]
  • Ill Girl: Caroline was often ill when younger (even at birth), which took away her parents' attention.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: To a mild extent. Near the end, the narrator starts to fall in love with a coal miner, who is several years older than her, when she realizes that he's the kind of man who would "sing to the oysters," a quirk of her fisherman father.
  • Never Live It Down: In-universe, people never did let go of the time The Captain chopped down a mast during a storm.
  • Parental Favoritism: Caroline, received all the attention as a baby because she was always weak and ill. She grew up beautiful, popular, talented at singing and the piano, sweet, and perfect, while Sara Louise became a hard-working tomboy who "never gave her parents a moment's worry." Sara Louise's mission in the novel is to find a life outside her sister's shadow.
  • The Resenter: Louise.
    I was proud of my sister. But that year, something began to rankle beneath the pride.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Louise notes how puberty and the army did well by Call.
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Title Drop: The title comes from the Biblical phrase "Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated."
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Louise and Caroline fit this trope perfectly. Louise is plainer and enjoys crabbing and fishing and doing hard work while Caroline prefers staying inside the home and her music lessons.
  • The Unfavourite: Louise feeling she is this makes up much of the novel. Her sister Caroline is adored more by her family and the community, and is given special treatment (like expensive trips to the mainland just so she can get singing lessons) because of her talent.
  • When She Smiles: Louise's reaction to meeting a Polish coal miner near the end of the book.
    But then, oh, my blessed, he smiled. I guess I knew right then I was going to marry him: God, Pope, three motherless children, unspellable surname and all. For when he smiled, he looked like the kind of man that would sing to the oysters.