Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos (1995), 248 pages
New York, Christmas. Growing up in the Great Depression but adopted by a good family, without need. Raising his family in a rough neighborhood. Much of Edward “Eduardo” Ives’ life seems to happen at Christmastime. It is around Christmas when he’s chosen from the orphanage (foundling home) by the first Mr. Ives and brought into a family. It is around Christmas when he finally connects with Annie MacGuire, who would later become his wife (they’re later married at Christmas). The defining Christmas of the book, though, is Christmas 1967, when their son, the 17-year-old Robert, is gunned down in a senseless act of violence outside a church where he’s headed for choir practice. (I read it right before Christmas.)
The breadth of this book is amazing to me. Mr. Ives’ story begins in the 1920s and continues, if not exactly in chronological order, through the 1990s. I keep coming back to this. Overarching all, the book seems imbued with a sense of melancholy, but the melancholy is not without relief. There is hope, there is redemption.
I loved the diversity. I loved how the church is talked about, interacted with. It was fun to “see” the art scene — Ives and his wife meet at a figure drawing class.
This book is on the Image Journal list that it’s my personal challenge to tackle.
I really liked this book, but I don’t think it’s sticking with me the way some of the other list books have.
Hijuelos won a Pulitzer (1990) for his Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Isn’t that a great title? I’ve already sought that one out, although I haven’t read it yet.