Mr. Ives' Christmas

Mr. Ives' Christmas

by Oscar Hijuelos


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"Enthralling...A life-affirming novel, a worthy successor to Dickens."  — Philadelphia Inquirer

“Stunning....a triumph...with an honesty at its core that seems almost shocking in this day and age.”  — Boston Globe

A beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective. In the expert hands of Oscar Hijuelos, Mr. Ives’ Christmas speaks eloquently to the most basic and fulfilling aspects of life for all of us.

Mr. Ives has a successful career in advertising, a wife and two children, and believes he has achieved the typical American dream. But the dream is shattered when his son Robert, who is studying for the priesthood, is killed at Christmas. Overwhelmed by grief and threatened by a loss of faith in humankind, Mr. Ives begins to question the very foundations of his life.

Part love story—of a man for his wife, for his children, for God—and part meditation on how a person can find spiritual peace in the midst of crisis, Mr. Ives’s Christmas "is a magnificently sad and enchanting novel, a celebration, ultimately, of giving and of grace." (Booklist)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060927547
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/23/2003
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 481,281
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Oscar Hijuelos was born of Cuban parentage in New York City in 1951. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. His five previous novels have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Oscar Hijuelos nació de padres cubanos en Nueva York en 1951. Sus otras novelas incluyen Mr. Ives' Christmas, The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien, Our House in the Last World y A Simple Havana Melody (Una Sencilla Melodía Habanera). Vive en Nueva York.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1951

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., City College of the City University of New York, 1975; M.A.,1976

Read an Excerpt


Years ago, in the 1950s, as a young man working for a Madison Avenue advertising agency, Ives always looked forward to the holiday season and would head out during his lunch hours, visiting churches, to think and meditate, and, if he was lucky, to hear the choirs as they practiced their hymns and sacred songs. Often enough, he walked along the burgeoning sidewalks, crowded with shoppers and tourists, and made his way to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, where he'd become lost in a kind of euphoric longing-why he did not know. And in a moment, he would find himself, as a child, attending Mass with his adoptive family again, so many memories coming back to him: of standing beside his father during the services and noticing, as he looked up at his father's kindly face, just how moved he seemed to be by the prayers, and the Latin incantations, and the reverential chants; so moved, especially during the raising of the host, that he almost seemed on the verge of tears.

Each time he entered a sanctuary, Ives himself nearly wept, especially at Christmas, when the image of one particular church on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn, whose choir was very good and the worshipers devout, came back to him, its interior smelling mightily of evergreen boughs, candle wax, and pots of red and white blossoms set against the columns. Dignified Irishmen, with greatly slicked heads of hair, dockworkers for the most part, turned up in ties and jackets, their wives and children by their sides. And there were bootleggers and policemen and carpenters and street sweepers in attendance as well. And a blind man whom Ives sometimes helped down the marble stairs; a fewNegroes, as they were called in those days, all, Ives was convinced, believing in the majesty of the child. The old Italian ladies, their heads wrapped in black scarves and their violet lips kissing their scapular medals, and crucifixes and rosaries, kneeling, nearly weeping before the altar and the statues of Christ and His mother; and at Christmas, the beginning of His story, sweetly invoked by the rustic and somehow ancientlooking creche.

The fact was that Ives, uncertain of many things, could at that time of year sit rather effortlessly within the incense- and candle-wax-scented confines of a church, like Saint Patrick's, thinking about the images, ever present and timeless, that seemed to speak especially to him. Not about the cheery wreaths, the boughs of pine branches, the decorative ivy and flowers set out here and there, but rather about the Christ child, whose meaning evoked for him a feeling for "the beginning of things," a feeling that time and all its sufferings had fallen away.

Of course, while contemplating the idea of the baby Jesus, perhaps the most wanted child in the history of the world, Ives would feel a little sad, remembering that years ago someone had left him, an unwanted child, in a founcfling home. (To that day, to all the days into the future, there remained within him the shadowy memory of the dark-halled building in which he lived for nearly two years, a place as cavernous and haunted as a cathedral.) A kind of fantasy would overtake him, a glorious vision of angels and kings and shep-hcrds worshiping a baby: nothing could please him more, nothing could leave him feeling a deeper despair.

Enflamed by the sacred music and soft chanting, his heart lifted out of his body and winged its way through the heavens of the church. Supernatural presences, invisible to the world, seemed thick in that place, as if between the image of Christ who is newly born and the image of the Christ who would die on the cross and, resurrected, return as the light of this world, there flowed a powerful, mystical energy. And his sense of that energy would leave Ives, his head momentarily empty of washing machine and automobile advertisements, convinced that, for all his shortcomings as a man, he once had a small, if imperfect, spiritual gift.

That, long ago, at Christmas.


More sentimental than he would let on to others, Ives, in his later years, was the kind of fellow who saved just about everything, a practice that had something to do with his foundling beginning. In his study, he had file cabinets filled with letters, postcards, and Christmas greetings. He kept fiineral cards, Jesus Christ with His burning heart welcoming the sanctified into heaven, the glorious place. He had autographed drawings from Winsor McKay, Walter Lantz, Otto Messmer, Lee Falk, Dick Caulkins, and dozens of other cartoon artists. And pilcs of cards and correspondence from commercial artists like himself, many of them friends with whom he had collaborated over the years. A curiosity: somehow and somewhere, he had acquired an autographed publicity shot of the actor Ray Milland. And there was also his collection of, affectionately kept, handwritten notes from fellow artists much more famous than himself. His favorite, because it took him back to a happier time during his childhood, was the note Wait Disney had sent him back in 1935, Nvhen, at the age of thirteen, he submitted some funny-animal drawings and gag ideas on the chance that he could go to work for the Disney studio, then making a new kind of animated, feature-length film called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A form letter turned him down, but a few lines had been added, which said, "Keep in touch and keep it up, your work is swell! Walt Disney." Ives showed the note to all his friends and passersby, as they walked by his stoop, the mild praise had him floating for weeks.

(He even had a crinkly-edged black-and-white photograph taken of him back then—Ives in a tie and jacket posed on the steps of his building in Brooklyn, just after he'd come back from Mass, with the letter held up before him, for all to see. His expression was happy.

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Mr. Ives' Christmas 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As with 'The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien', this book takes you on a journey through life, from childhood through the final years. However, 'Mr Ive's Christmas' is also a book about compassion...compassion for a father, a wife, a friend, a son, and for someone who has only brought grief and torment into life. The comparisons to Dickens are obvious and, like Dickens, this book will make you think alot about the way you live your life. It is beautifully written and you will admire Hijuelos both for his gifted use of language and his ability to create a meaningful and touching story.
bookheaven on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good story but sad.
Katethegreyt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just finished reading this novel that I probably purchased about 12 years ago. Decided to read some previously unread Christmas stories and this is the second one. The other one was - a romance - predictable, cliche ridden - I'll allow the author and title to remain unknown. The Hijuelos, however, is a keeper; one that I will read again.Things that interested me - frequent mentions of D.H. Lawrence and Charles Dickens. The spirituality of the story that I was not expecting. I have only read one other book by Hijuelos - The Mambo Kings - and I did not "love" it. This novel has revived my interest in him; I'll probably give another of his works a try.
1morechapter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Ives¿ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos was a Pulitzer finalist in 1996. Hijuelos had also previously won the Pulitzer in 1990 for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.Mr. Ives seems to have almost the perfect life. He has a successful career and a happy family. He helps with community projects and events for his church. He is a man of faith. Then his son is shot and killed on Chrismas Eve coming home from choir practice. The son, Robert, was only 17 and wanted to be a priest. From this tragic event, Edward Ives struggles with his faith and the meaning of existence. He questions his once firm ideals. He grieves. He grieves for a very long time.I don¿t know if `enjoyed¿ is proper in this case, so I will say I really appreciated this book, but it is not for everyone. It is definitely not a warm and cozy Christmas story, but it is one that seeks answers to the hard questions in life. If you¿ve ever wondered why God allows bad things to happen, you might like this book. It really doesn¿t even come away at the end with many very solid answers, but it does show one man¿s journey through faith, hardship, and loss in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the story of a kind, Christian man who is depressed most of his life, especially at Christmas. The story jumps around both time and place, which becomes tedious. Although it is well written in many ways, it just wasn't what I was looking for to help me get in the Christmas spirit.