Hello from the Gillespies, by Monica McInerney (2014)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult (ovaries helpful)
Hello from the GillespiesIt’s December 1st, and as she does every year since her marriage 33 years ago, Angela Gillespie prepares her annual Christmas letter – a cheerful summary of the highlights of the year for the Gillespies – she and husband Nick, their four children aged 10 to 32, and their life on an immense sheep station in the Australian outback. But it’s been a rough year for Angela, and she lets off steam by drafting a truly honest summary of the year – one of her children is having an affair, her youngest is just plain weird, the other two gaining debt instead of stability, and she suspects her marriage is unraveling as her husband won’t confide in her and may be having a cyber-affair of his own. She takes a nasty dig at Nick’s aunt Celia, and even reveals the details of her fantasy of what life might have been like had she not married Nick and had four kids. A sudden emergency involving a kitchen knife sends Angela to the hospital with her youngest child, and a well-meaning Nick sends out the draft without reading it so her December 1 deadline is not missed. When the children learn what she has done, they are angry and humiliated but the real damage is between Nick and Angela. A post-Christmas tragedy, however, forces the family to reassess their lives and Angela’s role within it as they learn even more about the mother and wife they thought they knew well. This book is actually funnier than the plot summary suggests. For the reader, it’s a delightful opportunity to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude as we watch the dramas continue to unfold – from unexpected pregnancies to scam artists, the rough year doesn’t stop for the Gillespies. Over the top for sure, but McInerney’s strength is in her detail of the relationships. The closeness of the twins, the barbed comments among siblings, the sharp parental criticisms – it all rings quite true, and as a result the family comes to life, along with the spectacular setting. (May I never see a huntsman spider in real life, though.) Born in Australia and living in Dublin, McInerney draws on her extensive knowledge of both countries to create supremely detailed settings that provide dramatic backdrops to Angela’s contrasting lives. One minor irritant – the decision that the U.S. edition should use Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. This Canadian had to stop and convert for no reason at all, especially when other measures remained in metric. Grumble. My thanks to NetGalley for the advance reading copy.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20893378


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