Published by Knopf Publishing Group on June 12th 2018
A debut novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the emotionally stirring, wildly captivating story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family's hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart.
Esther Ann Hicks--Essie--is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She's grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family's fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie's mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show's producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia's? Or do they try to arrange a marriage--and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media--through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell--Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?
If you, like me, have been seeing The Book of Essie everywhere, it’s with good reason. Meghan MacLean Weir’s debut novel is a fearless and timely story that’s bound to elicit visceral emotional responses in the reader. One can’t help but make comparisons between Essie’s story and that of a certain reality television show family. Thankfully, there were enough departures to make the story feel fresh and unique.
The story is very character-driven and includes a cast ranging from pillar to post in terms of likability. It’s told from the alternating perspectives of Essie, Roarke, and Liberty Bell, a journalist Essie has entrusted to tell her story. I found Essie to be extremely likable and easy to root for. My only issue with her character was that she seemed unbelievably mature for a sheltered seventeen-year old. I would gauge her level of maturity to be more like that of a twenty-one year old. The same could be said for Roarke though perhaps to a lesser degree. Roarke was actually my favorite character in this book. Essie’s family, as you might imagine, fell, for the most part, on the less likable end of the spectrum. They were all very developed, however, and will provide lots of discussion material for book groups. I struggled a bit with Liberty and the telling of her own side story throughout the book. It wasn’t so much Liberty’s character or even the story itself; more that her story when told in connection with Essie’s made for a bit more implausibility than I prefer.
The Book of Essie was a very quick read for me and one I enjoyed a lot. It’s perfect for book clubs. It stirs lots of emotions. It raises questions about our cultural obsession with reality television. As a debut, it’s quite impressive. Meghan MacLean Weir has established herself as a talented contemporary voice. I will look forward to reading her future titles.
Susie | Novel Visits says
Nice review, Ann Marie. I loved Essie and I’m so glad it worked for you, too.
Ann Marie says
I felt the same way about Liberty. It was the only time in the book when I thought, ‘Really? Two far right characters coming together in one town?’. I kind of got it but wasn’t sure it was believable. Still, I gasped in the final moments. Did not see it coming.
Mostly, as I read that book I wondered how the Duggars must feel. It so closely resembles their lives.
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Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Club says
This was one of my BOTM picks! I am so glad to hear it is as good as it sounded in the blurb. Great review!
Amanda @Cover2CoverMom says
I’ve been seeing this cover everywhere but had yet to stop and read a review for it. Very interesting topic. I’m not sure why there is such an obsession with reality TV. I find it really annoying and unbelievable for the most part. BUT every once in a while I will watch it if I’m in the mood to watch something that will make me feel better about myself lol
I couldn’t imagine being a reality TV family. How exhausting it must be! To be in the limelight all the time, especially in the awkward teen years? No thanks! This sounds like a really interesting read!
Ann Marie says
I agree with everything you’ve said. I’m not much for reality TV myself. Occ. I watch The Real Housewives – NYC and OC only – or Million Dollar Listing but that’s about it.
Hi! I haven’t read this book yet but I was contemplating choosing it for our next book club read. Are there triggers that might make it not a good choice? Thanks!