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 a bump on the head leaves Angela with temporary amnesia, the Gillespies pull together—and pull themselves together—in wonderfully surprising ways....
Paperback, 624 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Four Stars: A look at a not so perfect family.
It's November 30th, and Angela is getting ready to write the thirty fourth edition of her Christmas letter. Each year on the first of December, Angela sends out her annual letter that chronicles all the year's happenings on the family sheep ranch in the Outback. The only problem is that this year Angela can't think of anything bright and cheery to say. Her whole family is in disarray. So Angela engages in a cathartic exercise by writing down every negative thing about her children, husband and life in general, and once she is done she feels better. What she doesn't intend is for anyone to read the letter. Unfortunately, the email goes out due to an untimely accident and a family member who thinks they are helping. Now the ugly truth about the family is out, and the Gillespies can either confront it head on or hide. Will the Gillespies survive the Christmas letter from hell?
What I Liked:
- I thought this book sounded hilarious from the description. How many of us get those cheery Christmas letters each year, and we can't help but get annoyed at how perfect and wonderful other people's lives sound? So the idea of someone letting it all hang out, good, bad, ugly and what you never want to have repeated make its way out into the world was too funny. I loved the whole thing with the Christmas letter from hell and how the family responded to it, as well as the folks who received it. Even though it was a negative experience at first, the family grew from it and it ended up being a good thing.
- This is more than a book about a Christmas letter gone wrong. It is about a woman in her fifties who is realizing her happy marriage has taken a stumble, her wonderful children are experiencing their own growing pains, and everything is about to land back in her lap. I found it easy to relate to Angela as she struggled through all of her difficulties. I also enjoyed the family, and their relationships, and watching them come together and grow due to a life changing experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Gillespie family.
- I appreciated the setting. The majority of the story takes place on a remote sheep farm in the Australian Outback. It was interesting to explore life out in the rural Outback, and I liked learning so much about this area and the people.
- I liked that this book was realistic. There were no quick fixes, and happily ever afters. It stayed true to life, and though I wanted everything to resolve nice and neat at the end, it doesn't because that is the way life goes.
- At first, I didn't care much for any of Angela's children. Her two twin daughters, Genevieve and Victoria have both made some poor decisions, they are in debt and they end up coming home with their tail between their legs. Yet over time, as I got to know them and watched them grow, I grew to love them. Especially Genevieve. She is outspoken, funny, and quick to take charge. Lindy and Ig the other two are also interesting, and I especially enjoyed Ig with his imaginary friend and wits.
- There were so many interesting story lines and things to explore in this book, that I never grew bored. It comes in over six hundred pages but I flew through it in three days because I had to know what happened next. There are also some great surprises and twists that I loved. If you want a feel good read with realistic characters, plenty of dilemmas and all that, pick this one up. I had a great time in the Outback with the Gillespies, and I hope there will be more.
And The Not So Much:
- I struggled with Nick, Angela's husband. Try as I might, I couldn't like him, and even by the end, I still hadn't gained and appreciation for him. He never showed his charm and I hated the way he ignored his wife and children all the time by spending time on the computer doing his family research. Even after the big dramatic incident with Angela, he still goes ahead with his trip to Ireland for more family research. I have to admit, though, I did like the little twist that happened to him regarding Carol, the women he paid to help him with his research. It served him right. Even though he comes through at the end, I still didn't like him. I hated that I didn't like him because it took some of the feel good away from the story.
- I also had issues with Rosalind, Lindy, the third daughter. She makes significant progress by the end, but I still don't think she had matured enough and changed. Her character irritated me throughout.
- Even though I liked that this book didn't end all the story lines with nice neat happily ever afters, I was left wanting so much more at the end. I wanted to see how things played out with Genevieve and Matt and Victoria and Fred. Did Lindy find love as well? What about Ig and his imaginary friend, was he gone for good? I felt like there was still so much more story to tell even after six hundred some pages. I would love to see another book.
Hello From the Gillespies starts out as a quirky book about a bad Christmas letter that goes viral, but it ends up being so much more. This is a book about family enduring real life problems and growing pains as they struggle with many of life's disappointments. I enjoyed watching all the members tackle their issues and seeing them grow and change from their experiences. I loved this book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.