McInerney (The House of Memories, 2014, etc.) serves up a satisfying family drama stemming from a fed-up woman finally coming clean in her traditional Christmas letter.
For more than 30 years, Angela Gillespie has been sending out an annual letter on Dec. 1, rife with platitudes about her family that hide a far more complicated picture. But after a particularly trying year, she sits at her computer and tells a different story. When her son, Ig, requires a trip to the emergency room—quite a journey from their home in Errigal, a remote sheep station in the Australian Outback—her husband, Nick, sees the draft on her computer and surprises her by pressing "send" so her missive won’t be late arriving in the inboxes of more than 100 readers. Though Angela was brutally honest in the letter—chronicling her three daughters’ financial, career and relationship woes, her young son’s recent dismissal from boarding school and attachment to an imaginary friend, and her own fears of her husband’s infidelity and emotional distance, as well as his rash decision to make a clandestine deal with a mining company that could wreak havoc on the Outback—for the most part, the family handles the airing of their secrets to friends and family around the world reasonably well. It's Angela’s mention of her fantasies about having chosen a different husband, life and family that truly upsets them. When an accident shakes up their lives, the Gillespies are forced to take on new roles, and the novel gains momentum. McInerney writes with a deep respect for her characters, allowing each the opportunity to help reshape the narrative of next year’s inevitable Christmas letter.
In a book written with humor and charm, family members show the best of themselves after the people on their wife and mother’s mailing list saw them at their worst.