I don’t know if you have one of those families, but my mother’s side of the family was famous for their “annual Christmas letter”, containing several pages to catch everyone up on the highlights and minutiae of their own family year. Usually containing a family photo (taken in July) and rife with horrible Christmas sweaters, a pouting child or three, and several cheesey decorations.
Monica McInerney brings us that same feel, with a twist. Angela Gillespie, living on a sheep station in the Australian outback is a sender of such letters. Usually full of lighthearted news, these letters have brought news of her family to near and far for years. This year, however, is different. Taking a few moments to let her real thoughts loose, Angela spills details and airs family laundry that never went further than their own home. Insecurities, doubts, worries about finances, frustrations with an interfering aunt, even her voicing wonder of what might have been.
Angela was writing to air her frustrations, a quick draft never meant to be sent. But she was interrupted by her son’s accident, and her husband Nick, in a moment of helpful hit send. And the story begins!
McInerney brings to light all the issues that are prevalent and common in a relationship and family: even if only momentary. Imagine if your every frustration was laid bare for all to see – most are easily solved, or set aside after resolution. But the sending of the mail to all and sundry, unleashes a series of events and forces everyone to look at their lives and behaviors. The characters are wonderfully flushed out, both from Angela’s initial frustrations and their appearance in the story. Her daughters Genevieve, Victoria and Lindy are complete people, prone to adolescent and immature behavior that contrasts with their thirty-something ages yet completely believable in those roles. Nick is perhaps too focused on ‘solutions’ and making a success of things than his own relationship, and their young son Ig, is rather a prototypical ten year old, aware of his parents but striking out after his own pleasures.
Not surprisingly, the letter sends the family into a tailspin, but more is to come and their entire sense of what their family is and means is now in imminent danger. Not overly dramatic or over-written in any way, the story is gripping and engaging with plenty of fuel for imagination and thought as you will relate each person’s struggle and emotions to your own. Small glimpses of the countryside and other cities round out the imagery in the story, while the emotion is palpable and omnipresent. My only let-down was with the ending, which was predictable and felt rather anticlimactic after such a wonderful read, even as it fit perfectly into the story progression. A bit of a different and heartwarming holiday read, this isn’t rife with gingerbread and spruce, but brings us back to family and home: the true joy of the holidays.
Title: Hello From the Gillespies
Author: Monica McInerney
Published by: Berkley, Penguin, Signet
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 16 Hours: 49 minutes
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For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herselfshe tells the truth....
The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.
Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull togetherand pull themselves togetherin wonderfully surprising ways
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.