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?
I decided to kick off #SABRBOTMathon with The Book of Essie, and I’m seriously now so upset that I waited so long to crack it open! The story is told through the eyes of 3 narrators: Essie, Roarke, and Liberty. Each have their own secrets to hide and demons to defeat, and I found myself utterly captivated by their lives. While some secrets were better kept than others (I figured out Roarke’s within his first two chapters), there is still a drive to finish the book because you want to see how everything plays out – is there such thing as happily ever after in the world of reality television? If history is any indicator (Nick and Jessica, Kylie and Lamar, and like 99.9% of all Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants), the outcome is not too promising.
I was most struck by how Meghan MacLean Wier was able to take the over-the-top world of reality television and make it so relevant and relatable. When I was younger, I had a friend that had a pastor for a father, and I was able to see firsthand just how much appearances meant while in public; however, behind closed doors, the family dynamic was not the warm, inclusive environment that they portrayed. It’s heartbreaking to think that, like Essie, many people are forced to “maintain appearances,” or behave the way their peers/viewers/congregation expect them to.
In an effort to not spoil the novel, I will only say that this book is so timely, poignant, and is a story worth sharing. While I did find the ending a bit unrealistic, I’m not sure I would have wanted it to end in any other way.
Thank y’all for stopping by! Have you read this one yet? I’d love to know what you think! Comment below or DM me on Instagram! If you haven’t read it yet, get your copy here so we can chat!