Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Hello From The Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Title: Hello From The Gillespies
Author: Monica McInerney
Publisher:  NAL Trade (November 4 2014)
ISBN: 9780451466723
Pages: 624 pages
How We Read It: eARC
Genre: women's fiction, contemporary
Our Rating: 2 cups 


For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth....

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways….

Our Thoughts:

Angela Gillespie feels overwhelmed. She is a wife and mother on an outback Australian sheep station that after too many years of drought no longer has any sheep. She worries about her four children who each have their own (largely self-inflicted) dilemmas. She worries about her relationship with her husband which seems to be growing increasingly distant. She endures the strain of trying to hold it all together. As a result of all the stress, she not only suffers from headaches, but also indulges in an imagined fantasy life as a means to escape from it all.

“I seem to be yearning for something all the time. For everything to be different. To be a different person in some way. To go back and start again, somehow make things better, make the right choices.”

“I just think if I could press a pause button for a while, have some time to myself, a little peace, a lot of quiet, time to reflect, I would be a much better mother, a much better wife, a much better person. I think I just urgently need a little bit of time off from worrying about everything, from being me, all day, every day, months and years on end. Is that too much to ask? Is that selfish of me?”

In a moment of frustration, instead of composing her usual ‘sunny’ Christmas letter, she lays it all out and ‘tells it like it is’ – never intending for this version of the letter to actually be sent out, of course. And, of course, it accidentally DOES get sent, leading to all sorts of upset and fallout.

Then, before the dust settles from the revelations of the brutally honest letter, circumstances occur that do indeed allow her to press that pause button, but not at all in the way in which she imagined. In the aftermath of these events, her family has to learn to pull together and cope with things without her guiding hand, and they make some interesting discoveries along the way.

At the beginning of this tale we were engaged by Angela’s plight, sympathetic to her feelings of discontent. We could relate to that overwhelmed feeling, the longing for a break, the desire for a little 'me time'. The whole idea of the mistakenly sent letter, with all of the resultant consequences, held great potential, too. However, as we read on we were disappointed.

This is a long book, and while the style is easy reading, it needed far more editing. There is a great deal of repetition within the story, and we found ourselves skipping page after page of unnecessary dialogue. There are worthy life lessons illustrated (such as ‘be careful what you wish for’) but they begin to get lost in the endless repetition. Some aspects don't feel completely believable either. While not entirely unlikable, the characters of the grown children come across as quite immature for their ages, and the enormous amount of family drama eventually gets to be a bit much. The story overall is pleasant enough, but it plays out too predictably, leading up to a neat and conveniently 'perfect' conclusion. There are no real surprises here, and this story could have been just as effectively (and more engagingly) told in many fewer pages.

Based on her previous novels, we will certainly read future releases from McInerney; however, we do not feel this book is her strongest effort, and it definitely could be improved by heavier editing.

 Our Rating:
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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