This charming family saga opens on December 1st. Angela Gillespie is composing her annual Christmas letter as she has done for over thirty years. But this year, after she types in her usual salutation “Hello from the Gillespies” she cannot seem to write the usual saccharine family update. With brutal honesty, she begins to write what is really going on. Her husband is distant and uncommunicative. He has made huge decisions without consulting her that have a detrimental impact on their way of life. Her daughters are out of control, her quirky youngest son has an imaginary friend. She is deeply unhappy and has resorted to having a rich fantasy life. She writes of personal troubles and of opinions of others that are meant for her eyes only. She is venting. Just when she has spilled it all out and is ready to hit the delete button, her son screams from the kitchen. He has cut his finger off with a knife. She jumps from the computer and comes to his aid and takes him to the nearest hospital. Many hours later, her husband Nick finds that she has left her Christmas letter open on the computer. Knowing her penchant for sending this annual tome on December 1st – he presses ‘send’. The result of this well-meaning action has vast consequences for Angela and her entire family.
Coincidentally, I began reading this novel the first week of December when I should have been writing my own Christmas letters. I have to give credit to Monica McInerney for holding my interest because I have never taken so long to read a novel. First it was Christmas letters, then Christmas cards, the usual festive socializing, decorating, baking, shopping and wrapping that comes with the Christmas season. But… whenever I had a spare moment, I would pick up this novel and read.
The Gillespie family were an endearing lot. They faced many challenges and troubles but their love for each other was such that nothing could destroy their closeness. Sometimes the lack of communication was like a comedy of errors, but still I read on…. Angela was a matriarch in the truest sense. She was the stalwart head of the family around which the others revolved. An unfortunate circumstance led to Angela being separated from her family and a great deal of the novel centered upon how the family coped and grew during her absence from them.
Set in the Australian outback, “Hello from the Gillespies” was a different Christmas novel. The Gillespies endured a sweltering heat wave on Christmas day. The author imparts a sound knowledge of the Flinders Range and South Australia. I could feel the heat and see the dust rise when a car came toward their ‘sheep station’ homestead. Far from perfect, the Gillespie family were all people I would like to meet. I’m sure that they would make anyone welcome and I would go there in a heartbeat were it not for the ‘hand-size’ furry spiders the author describes in her novel….
Thanks once again to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.