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The Essay: A Novel
by Robin Yocum

Published: 2012-10-09
Hardcover : 256 pages
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4 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 3 of 3 members

Jimmy Lee Hickam grew up along Red Dog Road, a dead-end strip of gravel and mud buried deep in the bowels of Appalachian Ohio. It is the poorest road, in the poorest county, in the poorest region of the state. To make things worse, the name Hickam is synonymous with trouble. Jimmy Lee ...

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Introduction

Jimmy Lee Hickam grew up along Red Dog Road, a dead-end strip of gravel and mud buried deep in the bowels of Appalachian Ohio. It is the poorest road, in the poorest county, in the poorest region of the state. To make things worse, the name Hickam is synonymous with trouble. Jimmy Lee hails from a heathen mix of thieves, moonshiners, drunkards, and general anti-socials that for decades have clung to both the hardscrabble hills and the iron bars of every jail cell in the region. This life, Jimmy Lee believes, is his destiny, someday working with his drunkard father at the sawmill, or sitting next to his arsonist brother in the penitentiary. There aren’t many options if your last name is Hickam.   

An inspiring coach and Jimmy Lee's ability to play football are the only things motivating him to return for his junior year of high school—until his visionary English teacher cuts him a break and preserves his eligibility for the coming football season. To thank her, Jimmy Lee writes a winning essay in the high school writing contest. When irate parents and the baffled administration claim he has cheated, his teacher is inspired to take his writing talent as far as it can go, showing him the path out of the hills of Appalachia.            

Terrific characterizations, surprising revelations, gut-wrenching past betrayals, and an unforgettable cast of characters born of the dusty, worn-out landscape of southeastern Ohio make The Essay a powerful, evocative, and incredibly moving novel.  

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Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Compare and contrast Hillbilly Elegy and The Essay.
Reputations are the distillation of our lives' origins and actions. This story sees both sides of the shifting nature of reputation. What does it take to rehabilitate it? Destroy it?
Angels exist in this tale in the form of Miss Singletary and Jimmy Lee's football coach. But who were the characters with more nuance? The weaklings, the misunderstood, the damaged? Was it a good essay?
by its.mama (see profile) 05/24/18

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

6-word essay
by its.mama (see profile) 05/24/18
Have members create an essay in 6 words describing a theme of this book.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "The Essay"by bkmnmpl (see profile) 05/06/19

Excellent coming-of-age story about a young man growing up in one of the poorest areas of Ohio in the early 1970's. Yocum creates well developed characters that the reader cares about. I highly recommend... (read more)

 
  "Satisfying"by its.mama (see profile) 05/24/18

I like a book with redemption. In this book the characters got what they deserved, by and large. It was a feel-good story where your underdog favorite comes out on top.

 
  "LOVED this Coming of Age Story"by Karenbrowntx (see profile) 05/17/18

JImmy Lee Hickman was labeled as a nobody from the time he was born. He was poor, from a bad family and Jimmy himself did not feel like he had a shot at life. It is amazing what one or two positive people... (read more)

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