Hello from the Gillespies is such an innocuous title. But I was impressed by the excerpt, and of course the fact that it’s a Penguin book, and I wasn’t disappointed. Life in the Outback can be lonely and difficult, and we see it from the eyes of a London born 50 something woman who has made her life on a sheep station.
Angela Gillespie has a tradition. She sends out a Christmas letter every year on December 1. She highlights the best achievements of her family and puts everything in a positive light. Her list has grown to hundreds over the years. But all is not well with Angela this year. Her twin daughters are in trouble. Victoria is in the middle of a scandal and jobless. Genevieve is in New York City and hasn’t come home for three years. Daughter Lindy’s business has gone bust and she is home, clinging to Angela’s skirts, driving her mad. 10 year old ‘surprise child’ Ig has run away from school, again, and is tight with his imaginary friend. Husband Nick is probably in love with a girl in Ireland and has grown distant. She just loses it and writes it all down, and the letter is sent on its way to the whole list. Now the fun begins.
As we read the book, we realize the letter is only the beginning. Angela is suffering from bad headaches. Genevieve comes home for good, and Nick is planning his first overseas trip without Angela. She just wants to run away and have a break from the madness. Her wish comes true in the most unexpected way. Now the Gillespies will have to rally around and forget their petty troubles to deal with the problems at hand.
The characters are so strong that you will think you have known them all your life. Ig is a precocious but understanding child. Angela’s friend Joan is loyal and helpful and you’ll wish she was your friend. The thousands of acres of the sheep station Errigal are wild and beautiful and reminded me of The Thorn Birds. There are plot twists that you don’t see coming and they keep the story interesting. Every character has some fears to overcome, some baggage to leave behind, if they are to move ahead with their lives. Angela is the thread that connects them all and even in her worst moments, she drives them all to do their best.
Hello from the Gillespies is contemporary drama at best. And it’s like a breath of fresh air, a modern epic that we can all relate to at some level, one that will make us laugh and cry and be thankful for what we have in life. Definitely a book you will read again and again. I know I will!