Writing a second novel as good as an initial effort can be a problematic thing. And “The Essay” follows in the path set by the author’s excellent maiden effort. It is a poignant portrayal of how an impoverished Appalachian boy growing up in a family looked down at even by the low standards of the southern Ohio coal country in which he lives can pull himself up by the bootstraps and escape from ignorance and poverty.
This is the story of Jimmy Lee Hickam who, by good fortune and talent, makes something of himself with the help of a good teacher and a football coach. He first attracts the interest of the coach, who gives him the opportunity to shine as a player. As a result he gains some stature in his high school despite his background as beneath recognition as a person. Then his English teacher gives him a second chance when he is about to fail. He rewards her by working hard, winning an essay contest and proving he has brains as well as brawn.
The story is not only a compassionate look at the boy’s development, but a moving look at life in a depressed area of the country. The story is a heart-rending tale of real life characters, with deep insights into their makeup. The writing is plain and unadorned, and completely in tune with the people and place. Highly recommended....Continua