The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending BookExpo, an industry-based conference for people in publishing. There is networking, a mass-distribution of galleys (advance reading copies, autographing…I mean it was intense but incredible!

Over this same weekend, Book of the Month hosted an event at a flagship Kiehl’s store on 3rd avenue. I got some great skincare samples (this cleanser reminded me of the mud bath I took on my honeymoon), a free Book of the Month tote bag, and three of the June Book of the Month picks. By the grace of God, I managed to pack all of the books I had picked up over the weekend, and got back to Chicago in one piece (as did the books, for the most part!).

From the Book of the Month event, I selected Calypso by David Sedaris (great interview at this podcast), When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (yay for pride reads!), and The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir, which I’ll be reviewing today.

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The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Essie is in trouble. The daughter of a highly televised Christian reality television series, Essie is pregnant.

The story is told between the perspectives of Essie, Roarke, a senior at her school struggling to find himself with a dark past, and Libby, a journalist with her own exposure to reality television of a different kind. Navigating Essie’s future starts with her past, which has to be explored in secret, given the lack of privacy she has from both her mother, and the world at large.

Religion is a complicated subject for fiction. Portrayed thoroughly in a negative light, and you alienate your more devout readers (plus, it’s lazy black-and-white writing). Highlight any religion over another as an absolute good, and you risk veering too far away from plot, characterization, etc., or creating unrealistic characters. This is why I love the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding (and yes, I even liked it in high school when I first read it!). Golding wanted to highlight the perils of a world without civilization and morality, of which he seems to suggest that we look to Christianity (ever so subtly) and the plight of Jesus Christ to better inform our world.

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Weir is this generation’s Golding. The savagery of 2018 is not a deserted island, but social media, sexism, and greed, all disguised by characters manipulating religion for their own personal gain. We see this manipulation in the stories of all three narrators, who in their own ways, are not innocent themselves.

Let me be clear that this book is not a condemnation of religion or Christianity. In fact, I found myself reflecting on the people in my life who are fortified by their religion to stand up for justice, for goodness, and love. This book had one of the warmest, fullest endings I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommend this book, and I am eager to hear your thoughts about it!

Source: Free, from the NYC Kiehl’s Book of the Month event

Further Reading:

 

2 Comments

  1. I was so sad to miss the Book of the Month event at Kiehl’s (I was in NYC for Book Con that weekend too), but picked The Book of Essie for my June pick. Your review makes me even more excited to start this one!

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