Book club: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Book club: The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

The Book of Essie

By Meghan MacLean Weir

Published June 2018

I borrowed this book from my local library. Get a library card and use it!

This review contains slight spoilers and references to sex abuse

I really loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I know most people say that about the books they read but I generally have no problem putting a book down and walking away if it bores me in the slightest. Often I don’t pick books back up. For the Book of Essie I sat down around 10 a and began reading. I closed the book around 6 p that evening having stopped only for a few minutes at a a time to move around and take a shower.

Not only was the book great, but it is timely. The story follows a young girl who is part of a religious mega family that has its own reality TV show. If you thought of the Duggars, so did I.

I bring up the Duggar family because The Book of Essie is largely about sex abuse and how it is covered up when families, especially prominent families are allowing it to happen in their own homes. Much like the Duggars, Essie’s family was complicit in her abuse and exploitation. One of the major plot points in the story was the question of who else knew it was happening and did nothing. The names on that list continued to grow up until the last few chapters and it’s heartbreaking because of the reality behind it.

Essie, the main character is clever, a survivor, and intensely compassionate. Essie is pregnant and needs to figure out what to do about it since the media covers her family’s every move and she’s an unmarried highschooler. She comes up with a plan years in advance just for this scenario and she executes it beautifully considering the terrible reality. Essie, while manipulative and scheming, is lovable. This is because we know Essie’s motives without her initially revealing them. She wants to escape her abuser, her family, and she wants her baby to be safe. She finds this safety in a classmate, Roarke who also wants to escape.

Roarke is lovable and teaches us a lot about the hypocrisy of reality TV and the people who love and hate it. Roarke also offers a few teaching moments about using other people to make a point. The love story between Roarke and Essie is not romantic, but it is something better, its about love between friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better love story, especially because a romantic one would have been tasteless and wrong all things considered.

The only confusing portion of the novel was the character Libby, a reformed religious fanatic. Libby’s role in the story was clear to begin with, to be the only journalist that interviews Essie and to help Essie find her sister. Her secondary roles become evident later in the story and the large chunks of the book dedicated to her suddenly have purpose. Libby’s story line is parallel to Essie’s in an unusual way and while it was confusing at first. It felt incredibly rewarding at the end even though Libby’s purpose is practically spoon fed to us in the last few chapters.

I loved this book and have already recommended it to many people. Its timeliness, criticism or reality TV, and lessons are beautifully executed and ultimately teach us that passing judgement too quickly is at the heart of hate and silence is complicity.

 

 

My Thoughts on Christmas

My Thoughts on Christmas

I love winter, but I’ve never really loved Christmas. I find Christmas movies obnoxious and Christmas music grating like nails on a chalkboard. I hate red and green together, and the insane consumerism surrounding at least America’s Christmas is absurd. To say I can’t stand Christmas is an understatement. I still feel this way about all things stated above, but I’m learning to adapt Christmas to my needs and expectations and avoiding all other versions.

I haven’t been excited about Christmas in a long time. I used to be excited because it was a break from school and gifts were fun. Now, I dread the holiday season and can’t stand receiving gifts or the overwhelming onslaught of “Christmas cheer.” Continue reading “My Thoughts on Christmas”

Why I Don’t Eat Almonds or Dairy

Why I Don’t Eat Almonds or Dairy

I love food, but some foods don’t love me. I have spent most of my adult life constipated and in pain. I was in such constant pain that when I finally removed the foods in my life that were contributing to the pain, I actually began noticing when other foods upset my stomach.

I know TMI, constipation, but here’s the deal; a lot of people deal with this but no one really talks about it. I definitely rely on other bloggers to help me make it through life, but when it comes to the inability to poop, I found nothing. Everyone has a supplement they say you should try. Been there, done that, my constipation is severe and a lemony powder mixed into my morning glass of water wasn’t going to cut it. I didn’t necessarily want a magic fix, I just wanted to read that someone else understands and was going through the same thing.

I chalked my constipation up to my antidepressants (more on my mental health here), which are known contributors. Google searches told me to eat more fiber, eat almonds, avoid dairy, etc. It was the same advice over and over again. I had labeled my digestive system a lost cause. I thought my lactose intolerance was the only thing I had to worry about and my constant constipation was merely a part of how my body functions. Continue reading “Why I Don’t Eat Almonds or Dairy”

Why it Should be Okay to be an “Attention Seeker”

Why it Should be Okay to be an “Attention Seeker”

In all types of writing (except technical) we are told to use an “attention grabber” or a “hook.” These are generally the title of a piece of writing or the very first sentence the audience reads (or hears in oral presentations). We are not only told to do this, we are taught how to do this. We are told to use “shocking” statements, tell the reader something they don’t know, or say something controversial.

Why is it okay to seek attention in our writing, but not for ourselves?

I have heard these two phrases all my life from so many people, “Wow, they must need a lot of attention”, and “They are just an attention seeker.”

Why is being an attention seeker perceived as a negative thing? Why can I be an attention seeker in my writing but not in my life? Why do we shame and resent people who need more or a different kind of attention than we do?

Humans are social animals and we need attention. Those of us that don’t get enough or haven’t gotten enough, crave or seek it out, maybe even from strangers.

The problem with using the term “attention seeker” negatively is that

Continue reading “Why it Should be Okay to be an “Attention Seeker””

My First Bra Fitting After My Reduction

My First Bra Fitting After My Reduction

After my breast reduction, I wore my stained surgical bras for months pining for the day I could buy new pretty bras.

When I was allowed to buy and wear real bras, we went straight to Nordstrom’s. Mom and I wanted to get me something special as my “first bra” and mom actively boycotts Victoria’s Secret after one employee told me their “bras would fit me if I gained weight.”

So to Nordstrom’s we went. We browsed all the bras, picked out a few I liked and took me back to get a fitting.

At this point, by breasts were healed, but were not pretty. They looked stitched together and angry.

I was terrified that Continue reading “My First Bra Fitting After My Reduction”

My three year Breast Reduction Anniversary

My three year Breast Reduction Anniversary

In honor of my three year breast reduction anniversary, here is a Q&A of all the breast reduction related questions I have ever received.

These questions come from private messages I have received and things I am generally asked in person. I did a similar blog responding to my friends fears surrounding the operation here. 

Q. Why did I decide to get a breast reduction?

A. After years of physical pain, emotional pain, and sexual harassment, I decided it was the only thing that would improve the quality of my life. I thought that if my breasts weren’t abnormally large, people might treat me like a person, my back wouldn’t hurt all the time, and I might actually be okay with my body.

I started developing breasts around eight or nine and they grew quickly and painfully from there. This means I started getting catcalled at a young age, I was constantly mistaken for being older, and we all know how cruel kids can be.

When I entered middle school, people Continue reading “My three year Breast Reduction Anniversary”

My Journey to Mental Health, Not Recovery

My Journey to Mental Health, Not Recovery

young Brette

Fleeting happiness is still happiness, I just wish I had more of it when I was this age.

Trigger Warning: depression, death, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders

This is a condensed (but still long AF) telling of my journey to mental health. I realized as I started writing this, that I am tired of writing about my mental illness. I simply feel like my major depression no longer defines me. It is a part of me and always will be, but it is not me.

With this considered, I believe mental health becomes more prevalent in daily lives. I recognize the importance of the topic, especially when someone can share their story because so many people are struggling and the more often and longer we maintain a dialogue, the closer we are to normalizing mental health care and moving away from stigma.

I separated the sections by periods of my life as Continue reading “My Journey to Mental Health, Not Recovery”