cover image Out of Esau

Out of Esau

Michelle Webster Hein. Counterpoint, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64009-412-3

Debut author Hein’s delicate tale of a small town in Michigan centers on a local church, its congregants, and the eventful arrival of a troubled new family. In 1996, Esau Baptist pastor Robert Glory, a 10-year veteran of the church and former foster child, notices the Shearers, a new family among the congregation, and is instantly intrigued. Susan Shearer and her husband, Randy, have recently settled in Esau with their young children Willa and Lukas, and Robert’s casual interest in Susan becomes a forbidden indulgence as Susan slowly divulges the details of her difficult marriage to the increasingly contentious Randy. Hein adds depth and complexity to the otherwise simple and restrained story by telling it from the various characters’ points of view, as Robert wrestles with the demons of an unsettled past and undetermined future; Susan watches Randy steadily succumb to violent rages; and smart, perceptive, nine-year-old Willa watches helplessly as her parents’ marriage fractures and begins to crumble. For the most part, Hein’s eloquent writing and convincing portrayal of the characters’ faith and piety makes up for a fairly anti-climactic narrative. Overall, it lands as a worthy first outing. (Oct.)