Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Hello from the Gillespies

By Jami Deise

**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.

31 comments:

Bonnie Franks said...

Not Miley. Not Beyonce. How about Stephen King with all of his movies and tv shows and his getting out and about. He's not been known for that in the past. Always kept rather private.

bonlyn55 at yahoo dot com.

Janine said...

I would say one of the messed up celebrities like Miley Cyrus or Amanda Bynes. Can you imagine the craziness they bring to their families on holidays?

kinini01@hotmail.com

Shelby N. said...

Amanda Bynes was the first person to pop into my head. She's had an umm interesting time lately.

Kristin Jones said...

I would love reading a holiday letter from Lea Michele. Huge fan of Glee and with her new album, new boyfriend and final season of Glee I think 2014 was an interesting year for her.

kdurham2@gmail.com

Kristin Jones said...

I would love reading a holiday letter from Lea Michele. Huge fan of Glee and with her new album, new boyfriend and final season of Glee I think 2014 was an interesting year for her.

kdurham2@gmail.com

traveler said...

Patrick Stewart has an allure for me so this would be special and intriguing. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Jen said...

How about Adam Sandler? I always wonder if he is as funny in real life as he is in his movies.

ingmankidsmom at gmail dot com
Jennifer Ingman

Jessica Meddick said...

Amanda Bynes would be pretty good to read

walkingcorpse11@hotmail.com

Bonnie K. said...

The Kardashian/Jenner family is filled with drama, not that I follow them.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

Bridget Taylor said...

The Kardashians would have a crazy newsletter.

Iambtinrb@aol.com

Rhonda said...

Angelina Jolie the kids a newlywed fun,lomazowr@gmail.com

Rhonda said...

Angelina Jolie the kids a newlywed fun,lomazowr@gmail.com

JJT said...

Neil Patrick Harris. Jtretin at aol dot com

Joan Kubes said...

Amanda Bynes, that would be an interesting newsletter.

Carl Scott said...

Paula Deen had a pretty stressful year. I'd like to know how she feels about it. Thanks. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

Melanie Backus said...

I think Meryl Streep with all of her versatile acting gigs might make for an interesting newsletter.

mauback55 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Poor Amanda Bynes.

SuzyQ4PR(at)aol(dot)com

bn100 said...

AMANDA BYNES

BN100candg at Hotmail dot com

Summer Grinstead said...

I would love to get a newsletter from Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I just love them.

sumsum085@aol.com

Holly said...

I have to go with Bill Murray.

holly_109 AT Hotmail DOT com

Kayla Gothier said...

I think Angelina Jolie would be a great celebrity newsletter and it would be interesting to read about her humanitarian work while maintaining a healthy relationship with her kids. Let's go for positive and enriching this holiday season, not gossip.

kaylagothier@yahoo.com

Kimberly V said...

I don't think anyone has a crazier life than James Franco.
k3kdpv at gmail dot com

Melissa Seng said...

Amanda Bynes would make for a great conversation, the poor thing. Shame she's not getting the help she so desperately needs.

Vivian said...

Whoopi Goldberg! She can make anything sound funny :)

vjvereeke@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

I think Bill Murray would write a great newsletter. He's funny and quirky and seems like a genuinely nice person. Susanc0316 at gmail dot com. Susanc0316@gmail.com

Amy Frye said...

I would love to read a holiday letter from Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. I'm sure it would be filled with picture of their adorable baby girl, Wyatt.

susieqlaw said...

Kim Khardasian West
sendsusanmail at gmail dot com

Josy Herrera said...

Definitely Miley Cyrus! Haha.
Email: Josy15love@gmail.com

Kathy A. LaMaster said...

I'm going with Neil Patrick Harris. Although, he's not crazy, he's funny and intelligent and I think his Christmas letter would be awesome!

faithspage said...

Ben Affleck...

kyfaithw at aol dot com

Melissa said...

Thanks for participating and telling us whose holiday letter you'd like to read. A lot of you chose Amanda Bynes.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for sharing the book with our winner.

Random.org chose one winner from all entries with contact info. (One entry per person.)

Congrats to traveler!