Wetterling's memoir recounts the 27-year investigation of son's abduction, advocacy work
"Dear Jacob" is a heartbreaking and powerful memoir by Patty Wetterling, with contributions from blogger Joy Baker.
The story is well-known by most Minnesotans: On a dark October night in 1989, 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted at gunpoint from the small town of St. Joseph in central Minnesota.
His mother, Patty Wetterling, spent the next 27 years tirelessly investigating lead after lead and advocating for stronger sex offender laws. She never turned down an interview or a chance to get out the word about Jacob, and she never gave up hope that he would come home.
In her new book, Dear Jacob: A Mother’s Journey of Hope, we get a detailed account of the decades-long investigation to bring Jacob home, but we also learn about the family's emotional struggles, the heartbreak of following lead after lead to nowhere.
"I really thought at some time I could hand him this file of letters to let him know how hard we had searched and how we had carried him with us all along the way."Patty Wetterling
We also learn more about Wetterling’s advocacy work. By working to enact more laws to protect children, she found both purpose and a way to keep hope alive.
In a recent What We’re Reading interview, Wetterling explained she started writing the book while Jacob was still missing, hoping it would trigger more leads. She met blogger Joy Baker, who was investigating Jacob’s abduction on her own. They began collaborating.
But in September 2016, the book was suddenly put on hold: Jacob was found. Longtime person of interest Danny Heinrich confessed to kidnapping and murdering him.
Included in Dear Jacob are letters Wetterling wrote to Jacob through the years. She started writing the letters, in part, as a way to cope.
“Having a missing child is incredibly lonely. I didn't know how to get through the holidays," she said. " ... I really thought at some time I could hand him this file of letters to let him know how hard we had searched and how we had carried him with us all along the way.”
"I remember seeing her through the years and I thought ‘My gosh, that woman has done everything possible to try to find her son.’ It made us want to help her."Contibutor Joy Baker
Jacob Wetterling’s story has touched the hearts of many people, both in Minnesota and nationally. Baker, who contributed to Dear Jacob, credited Wetterling for keeping people dedicated to Jacob.
“She was our Supermom," Baker said. "I remember seeing her through the years and I thought, ‘My gosh, that woman has done everything possible to try to find her son.’ It made us want to help her.”
But Wetterling knows it was Jacob himself who touched the hearts of so many people.
“He was a happy kid. He had his favorite yellow sweater. I kept hearing people say, ‘The boy in the yellow sweater,’” she said. “He had this spirit of innocence.”
Dear Jacob: A Mother's Journey of Hope was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
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