Mr. Ives' Christmas is a 1995 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos, who is better known for his 1989 The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Hijuelos died late last year of a heart attack at 62 years of age. He was a New Yorker, born and bred, of Cuban immigrant parents.
This book is the story of Edward Ives, a foundling adopted and raised in a loving home, and of his life through the years. Not a cheerful book, I find it filled with a deep sadness, though beautifully written.
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.Ray Suarez at NPR describes it as "a Holiday hymn to New York" and says, "It is the story of Edward Ives, an adopted boy of uncertain ancestry raised by a loving father in Brooklyn, who grows to middle age in mid-century New York." Kirkus Reviews says the book "sails close to the shoals of sentiment but remains an honest, moving account of a man, his family, and the changing city they live in."
The New York Times has a review and offers this plot description:
Ives, in the Gospel phrase, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, but in spite of the Gospel promise he is not satisfied. Mr. Hijuelos shows us what Ives's lifelong hunger costs him and what it costs his wife, Annie, an artist turned English teacher, yet he makes us love the two of them...