Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Book Review and Giveaway: Hello from the Gillespies
**Giveaway is now closed**
There’s a well-known piece of advice about how to handle anger or other negative emotions: Write a letter to the person you’re in conflict with, pouring out everything you’re feeling and holding nothing back. And then rip up the letter. This advice assumes that there’s no way you or someone else could accidentally hit the “send” button rather than the delete key. What a disaster if that were to happen!
Angela Gillespie has been sending out a yearly Christmas letter for over 30 years – cheery, upbeat missives about her daily life in the Australian outback, living on a sheep station with her husband Nick, their twin daughters Genevieve and Victoria, their younger sister Lindy and late-in-life surprise son Ig. This year, however, the words just aren’t coming: She and Nick are barely speaking to each other, as he’s spending all his team researching his Irish roots and Skyping with genealogy researcher Carol. Genevieve is a blue-haired hairdresser in New York. Victoria has been fired from her radio producer job after her shock jock lover went on a drunken rant on-air. Lindy is completely hopeless, and Ig is too old for his imaginary friend, or maybe it’s schizophrenia. No wonder Angela has retreated into a fantasy life, where she’s still living in London, married to her high-school sweetheart Will, and mother to just one child, perfect daughter Lexie. Following that age-old advice, Angela tells all in this year’s Christmas letter, sparing no one – not even that “interfering old bat” Aunt Celia and her fantasies about Will. But before she can delete it, Ig has an accident – and Nick, thinking he’s being helpful, presses “send.” Preoccupied with Ig, it isn’t until days later that Angela learns what happened. Now a hundred of her friends, family and neighbors know everyone’s deepest secrets. Now what?
In today’s world of Facebook and selfies, the gap between how we present ourselves to the world and what our life is really like is a subject ripe for exploration. With the Christmas letter premise as the jumping-off point, I was expecting Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies to be a sharp-edged, laugh-out-loud funny satire of how people manage their images. Instead, it’s a mostly straightforward look at the disappointment that happens when our lives, and the lives of our children, don’t match what we’d hoped for. There’s humor, but it mostly comes from characters making bad decisions, and is almost entirely absent from the second half of the book.
Hello from the Gillespies is well written, but it could have used a strong editor. It’s overly long for the genre, and offers a huge plot twist about halfway through that makes the novel feel like two separate books. McInerney uses multiple points of view, and there’s at least one subplot that could have been excised entirely without hurting the structure of the book.
Still, it’s an engrossing book, and should be a hit for readers who enjoy dramatic women’s fiction. McInerney’s descriptions of life on a sheep station in outback Australia are detailed and illustrative. And Angela’s emotional dilemmas are universal for all wives and mothers.
And McInerney makes a subtle point by skewering the too-positive Christmas letters we all cringe at receiving: Your friends would rather know the real you than a fake one.
Thanks to Penguin Random House for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have one copy for a lucky US reader!
How to win:
Please tell us: Which celebrity's life would make for a crazy holiday newsletter this year?
One entry per person.
Entries without contact information (e-mail address, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc.) will NOT be counted (and we do NOT count "Google +" as contact information).
US only. Giveaway ends November 16th at midnight EST.