Hello from the Gillespies Is Perfect for Your Book Club

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 …

Dive into the read right here and get your copy Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney, available wherever books are sold November 4, 2014. It’s in paperback and includes a reading group guide to inspire a lively discussion. Readers compare Monica McInerney to Maeve Binchy – perfect for book clubs!
From Chapter One

It was December first. Angela Gillespie did as she’d done on that date for the past thirty-three years. She sat down at her desk before dinner and prepared to write her annual Christmas letter.

After doing so many, she had the process down to a fine art. It was a matter of leafing through her diary to recall the year’s main events, writing an update about each member of the family—herself, her husband and their four children— attaching a photo or two, then sending it off.

She’d written her first Christmas letter the same year she was married. Transformed from single traveler Angela Richardson of Forest Hill, London, to newlywed Mrs. Nick Gillespie of Errigal, a sheep station in outback South Australia, she couldn’t have been further from her old life, in distance or lifestyle. She’d decided an annual letter was the best way of keeping in contact with her friends and relatives back home. As the years went by, she’d added Nick’s relatives, their neighbors and her new Australian friends to the mailing list. It now went to more than a hundred people worldwide.

Her early letters had been in traditional form, typed on an old typewriter on their big kitchen table, then taken into Hawker, the nearest town (almost an hour’s drive away), photocopied and posted. It was much easier these days, the letters sent instantly via the wonder of e-mail. Even so, she still printed out paper copies and kept them stored in the filing cabinet beside the desk.

She knew the children found the whole idea mortifying — they, and Nick, had stopped reading the letters long ago— but perhaps in years to come they might like to see them. Angela hoped so. She secretly thought of them as historical documents. All the facts of their lives were there, after all, recorded in brief dispatches. She’d read back through them all only recently.

She’d written about her first years of marriage: “Nick and I couldn’t be happier! I am loving my new life on the land too. I can now name five species of native birds by their calls alone, four varieties of gum trees by their bark, and last week I drove a tractor for the first time. There’s hope for this London-born city girl yet!” She wrote about the arrival of the twins less than a year after their wedding day: “We already knew it would be twins, but it was still an incredible surprise to see two of them. One is so dark; the other is so fair; both are so beautiful. We’re naming them after my grandmothers, Victoria and Genevieve.” Three years later, she wrote about Lindy’s arrival: “A third girl! Another beautiful brunette. The twins can’t wait to get their hands on their new little playmate. I get to name her too (Nick and I struck a deal on our wedding night: I name any girls; he names any boys). I’ve chosen my favorite name from Shakespeare—Rosalind. The twins are already calling her Lindy!” The next two decades of updates were about outback station life, family holidays, academic results, hobbies, pets and funny incidents involving the girls, each re- port chatty and cheery.

Eleven years ago, she’d included a piece of news that she suspected had shocked her readers as much as it had her. At the age of forty-four, she was pregnant again. She’d thought she was menopausal. She’d discovered she was almost five months pregnant when a routine visit to the doctor led to an unexpected pregnancy test and an even more unexpected result. Two days after the birth, breaking with tradition, she’d sent out a special midyear e-mail to everyone on her mailing list. It’s a boy!!! Our first son!!! Nick gets to name one at last!!!!

She’d used far too many exclamation marks, she noticed afterward. Postbirth endorphins at work, she presumed. Ei- ther that or delayed shock at the names Nick had chosen for their son. At her hospital bedside, he’d confessed he had promised his long-deceased and sentimental grandfather that he would name any future son after the first Gillespies — two male cousins—to come from Ireland to Australia in the 1880s. Which was why their fourth (and definitely final) child was baptized Ignatius Sean Aloysius Joseph Gillespie.

One of Nick’s friends had been very amused. “He’ll either be the first Australian Pope or end up running a New York speakeasy.”
At first Angela tried to insist everyone call him Ignatius, but it was a losing battle. She’d long realized that the shortening of names was a national pastime in Australia. He was Iggy within a day of his baptism. A week later, even that was shortened.

He’d been called Ig ever since.

Excerpted from Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney. Copyright © 2014 by Monica McInerney. Excerpted by permission of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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