The catalyst for this novel is the Christmas letter that Angela Gillespie circulates to a growing circle of friends on 1 December each year. The letter always lists the good times being had by all the family members, however this year has not been a particularly good year and writing a cheery letter is difficult. Instead she writes about how she really feels and what she thinks of family members. Angela never intended sending the email, however when she leaves the computer to attend to a family emergency another family member decides to help her and, without reading the email, presses the Send button.
The novel is about family, especially families functioning under pressure. It is also about communication or more correctly lack of communication between family members. The Gillespie family depends on Angela to keep them functioning but this leaves her with no time to be herself. It is only when she is removed from the family for a time that the other members of this at times dysfunctional family begin to re-evaluate their lives and values. Genealogy research is also forms a sub-plot throughout the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this family saga set in rural South Australia written by Monica McInerney. The Gillespies certainly have their problems but the story of how they individually approach the challenges of life is told with humour and understanding. If nothing else, you will view Christmas emails in a different light. As December approaches I must start thinking about what I will include this year.
As a postscript, the two blank pages midway through the book are there for a purpose.