Charming & Entertaining from Monica McInerney

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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….

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Every family has their problems. What if your family’s issues were written down in painstaking detail along with every thought you have ever had about your significant other and sent out to everyone you know?  I imagine it would be some sort of disaster, wouldn’t it? An embarrassment? Well, the Gillespie family describes exactly how it feels to have your personal drama made public.

In the beginning of “Hello from the Gillespies,” we find Angela, mother and wife, sitting down to write her yearly Christmas letter. After struggling a few moments for something positive to say, she removes her filter and out comes the uncensored truth. Words she would never speak aloud let alone write, but each paragraph is a painfully true update for each of her four children and husband Nick.

What I found most intriguing about the book was how the author presents her all of the characters in the first chapter. Normally, it takes the better part of a book or more to get the feel for a character, but the very first scene we get a focused and detailed look into all the personalities of the main characters.

As the story develops, and the characters make their appearance, I quickly develop my own opinion. Angela is a worried mother and wife who feels alone in her marriage and used by her children. However, she is also a perpetuator of her own troubles by never taking action. Her grown children act more like her 10 year old son, Ig, and her husband continues to ignore her. The only person who is completely innocent in the family is 10 year old Ignatius.

I ached for for Angela’s character! When Angela and her family come through the after-math of her letter, it seems all family relationships have turned a corner except for Nick and Angela. It isn’t until Angela leaves for some medical tests that the first signs of reconciliation appear.

This story is a tale of a family growing together in a time of adversity. I enjoy any story if it is written well, and this book falls squarely into that category. What could have been a long, boring re-telling of a strangers woe’s became a perfectly paced heartfelt story.

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