The setting has a significant impact on the book Jacob Have I Loved. Sara Louise lives on the fictional Rass Island in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Young people who live on the island have few opportunities there. Sara Louise's twin sister, Caroline, has to leave the island each week to take voice lessons. One must leave the island to attend college or to get a job. Even dating options are limited due to the small population on the island. Sara Louise, the narrator, gives an example of this when describing her high school English teacher, Mr. Rice. Many of the high school girls are "half in love" with Mr. Rice because he is "the only relatively unattached man most of [them] had ever known."
Sara Louise eventually does leave Rass to go to college. First she attends the University of Maryland, and then University of Kentucky. She takes a job in the mountains, far from Rass. Caroline also leaves to pursue studies at Juilliard in New York City.
In addition to how the setting causes the main characters to leave, the bay and island life are prominent throughout the story. Sara Louise's father is a fisherman, and she also makes a little money by catching crabs. Sara Louise repeatedly states that she does not want to stay on the island.