Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mr. Ives' Christmas: Oscar Hijuelos


Mr. Ive's Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos is a novel that tells the story of a man's life and the grief he suffers when his son dies in a senseless robbery. Mr. Ives' religious beliefs and faith are at the center of this book. He lives in a neighborhood in upper Manhattan, with a mix of ethnic groups, and he likes it that way.

From the description at Goodreads:
Hijuelos' novel tells the story of Mr. Ives, who was adopted from a foundling's home as a child. When we first meet him in the 1950s, Mr. Ives is very much a product of his time. He has a successful career in advertising, a wife and two children, and believes he is on his way to pursuing the typical American dream. But the dream is shattered when his son Robert, who is studying for the priesthood, is killed violently at Christmas.
A central theme in the book is religion, and faith, and whether faith is enough for Mr. Ives. His life is forever altered by his son's death, as are his relationships with his wife and daughter and friends.

I had a very emotional response to the book. It is a sad story and there are no easy answers. My religious beliefs and experiences are not close to those of Mr. Ives, yet I felt there was a universality in his experiences related to loss and grief. My father had deep religious beliefs and he did truly try to live those beliefs everyday, as Mr. Ives does. I did not realize until I had finished the book how much Mr. Ives reminded me of my father. All of the characters seemed very believable to me. I think that this is one of the gifts of the book, that we can all see something of ourselves in the family relationships and friendships depicted here.

I discovered this book via Moira's Clothes in Books blog. See her posts on this book here and here. Each post has an excerpt and you can get a look at the writer's style.

I also liked this article at NPR Books, titled 'Mr. Ives' Christmas' a Holiday Hymn to New York. The author likes the depiction of New York. An excerpt is also included there.

8 comments:

  1. Tracy, new author and book, though not exactly the kind of stuff I'd read at this time of the year. It's never easy to hold on to your faith in the face of extreme adversity even as it is the one plank that keeps you afloat.

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    1. Prashant, the author was new to me also, until I read about this book at Clothes in Books. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but I don't keep up with non-genre fiction that much. I plan to read more of his books.

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  2. Tracy - Books in which the characters are so authentic that they remind us of real people can be so compelling and memorable. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I'm also glad you mentioned the posts on Clothes in Books. It's a great blog.

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    1. Margot, I have learned much about books and authors at Clothes in Books. Even some things about clothes.

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  3. Tracy, I am so glad you liked this book - I was going to say 'enjoyed' but I'm not sure that's the word. It is a serious book about serious things, and I like to think it doesn't matter if you have a religious faith or belief or not, it is about finding a way to live when bad things happen. Your father sounds like a lovely man. And thanks to you (and Margot) for the kind words.

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    1. Moira, you are right, enjoy is not the right word. But I did like the book a lot. It is a book that will be reread in future years. You are very welcome, the kind words are deserved.

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  4. Interesting book, I ordered it a few days ago. Not sure when I will read it, but I'll look forward to it when I do. I'm not just a hard-boiled crime junkie!

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  5. Col, It is interesting. I am sure you will be glad you read it... when you get to it. Not that much of a Christmas book, so any time of year works.

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