The Book of Essie

The daughter of a televised evangelical family discovers she’s pregnant and finally takes control of her crazy life with the unlikely allies of a local baseball player and a journalist with her own dark past. This was the first ever time (I think) that I actually read by Book of the Month selection within the month I received it and there’s definitely a reason for that. This book felt very heavily “Duggar inspired” to me but the additions of the characters of Roarke and Liberty (and Mike!) made this a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down once I really hit the stride.

Six for Hicks is basically 19 Kids and Counting but with less kids and if JimBob was Joel Osteen. Celia and Jethro Hicks run their house with an iron fist, but really Celia is in charge, so when she discovers her youngest daughter Esther (Essie)’s positive pregnancy test in the bathroom, she goes into planning mode. She can’t have a scandal, so she decides it’s time for Essie to get married. And quick. Enter Roarke, a local baseball player and soon to be valedictorian with a family struggling with money. And Liberty Belly, a former blogger and author turned journalist who has more in common with Essie than she’d like to admit. As the train rolls forward, it becomes clear that Essie is finally taking control of her own story for the first time in her life but as she tries to discover what happened to her sister Lissa that made her leave home for good, she realizes that the secrets of the family may not be able to stay a secret forever.

The characters in this book are really interesting. I love Essie’s mind and heart and her dedication to herself but also to those around her. Her and Roarke’s story warmed my heart. Roarke and Blake’s friendship also brought me a lot of joy since you don’t see a lot of positive male friendships in female-centered books. Liberty and MIke’s relationship was probably one of my favorite backdrop pieces of this novel, and at the end of a certain chapter when Mike says “I already did” I literally cheered for him. I was so team Mike, even if there wasn’t a team anti-Mike. It’s hard to explain until you read the book. One concern I did have with this was that Liberty’s backstory overshadowed Essie’s story in the present. I understand that it allowed Liberty to connect with Essie in an organic and original way and it made her trying to convince Essie about what to do make a little bit more sense, but there was a LOT of that backstory and not a lot of explanation about how the secret in Essie’s family continued after they had all grown up. I won’t spoil it, but I wish that had been explained to show more complicity from others but I just kept getting flashbacks to Liberty’s youth and no real resolution to it.

Overall, there’s a reason this book was a Book of the Month club selection. It’s a really engrossing and timely read and there’s a little speech Essie makes at the end that could definitely be broadcast on TV this very moment and be the perfect answer to our culture. Pick it up wherever books are sold.

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