By Ekta R. Garg
December 10, 2014
Rated: Bookmark it!
Weighed down by the challenges of her life, a woman composes her annual Christmas letter with brutal honesty. She wants to use the draft as an opportunity to air her grievances to herself, but it gets sent out by mistake and the letter becomes the first in a chain of events that changes her life. Australian author Monica McInerney gives readers a funny, sweet family to follow in Hello from the Gillespies.
Living in the Australian outback Angela Gillespie sends out a Christmas letter to her family and friends every year. She’s done so for the last 33 years, and the list includes about 100 people. Angela always makes an extra effort to stay positive in her letters, sharing only the good and glossing over the bad.
But this year the burden to stay positive becomes too heavy. The operations of her husband’s ranch have dwindled, and now Angela finds that Nick has begun to drift away from her. Their twins, Victoria and Genevieve, have both managed to fail in spectacular fashions in their respective jobs, one by sleeping with the boss and the other by sharing gossip with the wrong person. Angela and Nick’s third daughter, Lindy, moved back home and can’t stop crying. Her debts have followed her back to the ranch, and she doesn’t know what to do next with her life. And Angela’s youngest and only son, Ig, has an imaginary friend…even though he’s 10 years old.
Additionally Angela hasn’t felt well in a while, but she doesn’t know whether she wants to face what could be wrong. She doesn’t know how to face what’s wrong. Nothing seems right anymore.
On top of all this Nick’s Aunt Celia will join them for Christmas. And Angela really wishes she wasn’t coming.
Although Angela wants to use the letter for some private venting, the letter gets emailed to everyone on the list. Soon she begins receiving messages from people all around the world about her letter, and when Angela realizes what has happened she just hopes her own family doesn’t find out about it. It’s only a matter of time, however, when the kids and Nick do.
The letter becomes a sticking point for the family, but it also brings out some important realizations. As Nick and the kids begin to deal with the letter and what it means to each of them personally, their family changes in a dramatic way. All at once they learn how Angela’s best intentions fortified the document that held some truths difficult to face.
Author Monica McInerney handles her story with deft treatment and humor. Angela’s trials definitely come across as relatable, and readers will find themselves shaking their heads in sympathy and laughing out loud at her issues. While some of the situations might come across as a little exaggerated McInerney gently brings her plot and her characters back to the center, keeping Angela and all of the Gillespies grounded.
The climax of the story will keep readers guessing, even if the events leading up to it veer slightly off the story’s main track. McInerney also gives her target audience a delightful surprise in one of the subplots, handling its climax with a sense of fun and a touch of irony. She shies away from the obvious conclusions a similar story might make, giving Hello from the Gillespies a fresh feel. Her enticing descriptions of the landscape will draw her target audience to the book and might even inspire a few trips to Australia.
I recommend readers Bookmark Hello from the Gillespies.