Esstman, Barbara 1947–
ESSTMAN, Barbara 1947–
PERSONAL: Born January 7, 1947, in Carroll, IA; daughter of Robert W. (a grain dealer) and Helen (a homemaker; maiden name, Culbertson) Beste; married Michael Brady Esstman, July 5, 1969 (divorced, December, 1980); children: Brian Robert, Elizabeth Brady, Mark Edward. Education: St. Louis University, B.A., 1969. Hobbies and other interests: Photography.
ADDRESSES: Home—3413 Lyrac St., Oakton, VA 22124. Office—The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda, MD 20815; fax: 703-620-9818.
CAREER: The Writer's Center, Bethesda, MD, writing instructor. Also worked as a writing instructor at various institutions, including George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, and American University, Washington, DC. Washington Independent Writers (board of directors).
MEMBER: PEN, George Mason University Creative Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Redbook fiction award, 1988; Virginia Commission on the Arts fellowship, 1998; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1990; Pushcart Prize honorable mention, 1991; George Mason University Alumna of the Year Award.
Night Ride Home (novel), Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor, with Virginia Hartman) A More Perfect Union: Poems and Stories about the Modern Wedding, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
ADAPTATIONS: The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) adapted The Other Anna for television as Secrets; Night Ride Home was produced by Hallmark Productions for Hallmark Hall of Fame.
SIDELIGHTS: Barbara Esstman's debut novel, The Other Anna, is set in early twentieth-century Iowa. The narrator is twelve-year-old Anna Better, who prefers the company of a housekeeper she calls the "Old One" and the woman's granddaughter, Edwina, over that of her own mother. When a family guest impregnates Edwina, she is driven from the house, but Anna's parents adopt her baby girl. Edwina is traumatized by the loss of her child and the Old One blames the family for her daughter's descent into insanity.
Esstman's second novel, Night Ride Home, is set in 1940s Missouri. Nora Mahler loses her son, Simon, during a horseback-riding accident when he falls from her Arabian, and her husband, Neal, kills the animal with a bullet to the head and sells off the rest of their horses. Nora is devastated by the loss of both her son and her horse and becomes withdrawn, eventually undergoing shock therapy in a mental facility under Neal's order. Nora's mother, Maggie, has her released and tries to help her daughter manage the farm, which Neal wants to sell. When Nora refuses, Neal takes their daughter, Clea, and moves with her to Chicago. Ozzie Kline, Nora's teenage love, comes to work at the farm and brings it back to life, buying a new horse for Nora and boarding other horses. Ozzie and Nora feel their old attraction revive as they work together to restore the farm she inherited from her grandmother into a working operation.
Reviewing Night Ride Home, Polly Morris wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "Esstman tells this story skillfully through the alternating voices of her characters." Library Journal contributor Terrill Presky commented on Esstman's "insightful writing and find storytelling." The Other Anna and Night Ride Home, were each adapted for television with the latter having the honor of being the Hallmark Hall of Fame's 200th production. The Hallmark film stars Rebecca Demornay and Keith Carradine as Nora and Neal, and Ellen Burstyn plays Maggie.
Esstman is also an editor, with Virginia Hartman, of A More Perfect Union: Poems and Stories about the Modern Wedding. The collection contains contributions from well-known writers, including Anne Tyler, Carson McCullers, Alice McDermott, Alice Munro, Francine Prose, and Stephen Dixon. The volume also contains poetry by Anne Sexton, Jonathan Galassi, and Sharon Olds. The contributions range from tender to lighthearted. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that among the works of lesser-known writers, a "standout" story is "Presents," by Faye Moskowitz. The reviewer felt that "the collection as a whole nicely covers the gamut of contemporary attitudes about tying the knot."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1997, Jennifer Henderson, review of Night Ride Home, p. 1774.
Library Journal, August, 1997, Terrill Presky, review of Night Ride Home, p. 126.
New York Times Book Review, December 21, 1997, Polly Morrice, review of Night Ride Home, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, February 15, 1993, review of The Other Anna, p. 188; July 28, 1997, review of Night Ride Home, p. 54; April 20, 1998, review of A More Perfect Union: Poems and Stories about the Modern Wedding, p. 47.
Washington Post, February 7, 1999, Patricia Brennan, "Hallmark's 200th Story; Local Novelist's Night Ride Home Is Anniversary Choice," p. 3.
AuthorsDen.com, http://www.authorsden.com/ (May 7, 2005), "Barbara Esstman."