The Book of Essie surprised me. I liked it a lot. Today is the novel’s formal release date (thanks BOTM for making this a June pick). Weir’s second novel is about Esther Anne Hicks, the youngest child on the reality TV show “Six for Hicks.” Essie’s father is an Evangelical pastor with six children. At the age of 17, Essie tells her family that she’s pregnant. Her parents, hoping to seamlessly incorporate Essie’s pregnancy into the popular TV series, arrange a marriage for their daughter. Later in the book, Essie reveals devastating information about her pregnancy that will shake the foundations of the entire Hicks family. I don’t like reality TV. At all. That being said, I found this book (which is mostly about reality TV) fascinating.
I have a few complaints regarding the way certain characters are fleshed out. Also, I would have written parts of the friendship between Essie and Roarke differently (authentic affection grows too quickly given that the courtship is entirely staged). Roarke is gay and not physically interested in Essie. It is abundantly clear that Essie and Roarke are not actually in love. Weir's writing made me second guess this too often though. Roarke has frequent thoughts about Essie's physical beauty and often seems genuinely thrilled to spend his life with her. This staged relationship felt too real at points. I kept wondering if Roarke was actually physically interested in Essie...I don't think Weir intended this and I found this aspect of the novel frustrating.
Even with the above shortcomings, this is a very interesting book. I've never read anything like it. In my excitement after finishing The Book of Essie, I went on Amazon to order Weir's first book. Shortly thereafter, I realized it’s a memoir about the (very) sick kids she treated at Boston Children’s Hospital during her pediatric residency (Meghan Weir is an accomplished doctor). I’m going to pass on her first book, just because it sounds altogether heartbreaking. I'll gladly read her next novel though.