A review by Nalini Haynes
Imprint: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Format: Paperback, 528 pages
Angela Gillespie married an Australian, Nick Gillespie, and moved to a station (a huge sheep farm) in outback South Australia 33 years ago. Since then, she’s written one of THOSE Christmas letters every year. You know the kind: bubbly, positive, glossing over all the negative things and setbacks.
This year Angela is experiencing frequent headaches in between mild bouts of honesty. Angela’s best friend, Joan, suggests Angela tries honesty. Angela writes the most honest Christmas letter ever. She’s horrified. She decides not to send it. Just then…
Her youngest child, Ignatius (aka ‘Ig’), falls on a carving knife, cutting off part of his finger. Angela rushes him to hospital.
Nick thoughtfully emails Angela’s Christmas letter for her in between Skyping sessions with The Other Woman.
Their middle child, Linda, has already moved home after a disastrous non-career. Shortly after the Christmas letter is sent, the oldest girls, twins Victoria and Genevieve, retreat from career and personal disasters to the parental sanctuary only to discover The Letter.
Hello from the Gillespies delves into Australian station life, the perils of tracing Irish family roots and chaotic family life amidst a few romances. It’s refreshing to read from the point of view of a 55-year-old woman and her 30-something daughters; women in these age groups are often invisible in literature and pop culture. Monica McInerney is an Australian Marian Keyes in that her ‘domestic lit’ explores real life via an entertaining, engaging story. If anything, at first I found Hello from the Gillespies all a little too close to home, a little too relatable. I discovered another reason for preferring SFF: it’s easier to distance myself from the real issues when it gets uncomfortable. However, McInerney’s humour and her characters’ willingness to face their demons carried the story right up until the end.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars