THE BOOK OF ESSIE

Texarkana Gazette - - ACCENT - —BY MAU­REEN MCCARTHY STAR TRI­BUNE (MIN­NEAPO­LIS)

by Meghan Ma­clean Weir; Al­fred A. Knopf (336 pages, $25.95)

At 17, Essie Hicks has lived her whole life on cam­era, via her fam­ily’s re­al­ity TV show “Six for Hicks.” Well, not her whole life, be­cause Essie has an ex­plo­sive se­cret. She’s preg­nant.

If she were a Kar­dashian, that might not be a prob­lem, but the Hicks fam­ily has built their celebrity on their strict re­li­gious be­liefs. Big prob­lem.

“The Book of Essie” chron­i­cles the piv­otal months dur­ing which Essie’s fam­ily works out how to deal with her preg­nancy with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing their hit show and the lav­ish lifestyle it funds.

“It paid for the car seat I rode home in from the hos­pi­tal. … It paid for my first back­pack when it came time for me to go to school,” Essie re­calls. “The show paid for ev­ery­thing.

And now it would pay for a so­lu­tion to my ‘prob­lem.’?”

Essie finds her­self given a rare chance to de­cide her fate—but at what cost?

De­but nov­el­ist Meghan Ma­clean Weir de­liv­ers a page-turn­ing tale in­formed by her back­ground as a preacher’s daugh­ter. She di­vides the story among three young nar­ra­tors: Essie, her po­ten­tial groom, and a jour­nal­ist cov­er­ing the show. It’s a good de­vice, but Weir strug­gles to cre­ate three dis­tinct voices. Read­ers also may flinch at her oc­ca­sional swipes at evan­gel­i­cal churches and the fic­tional show’s re­sem­blance to the re­al­life “19 Kids and Count­ing.”

Even so, the story’s fast pace and plot twists will hold read­ers un­til Essie’s episode comes to its dra­matic end.

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