“If You Find This Letter” Book Review

(review by Mary Jedlicka Humston)

What would you do if you found an anonymous letter of love and encouragement in your coat pocket after you left the subway?  Or, if you found one in a library book, on the vacant chair at the dentist’s office, or on the table at your local coffee house? Can you imagine the feelings of discovering this special gift?  Would it come “at just the right time” when you needed a lift?

This became a reality in Manhattan a few years ago when a new college graduate began leaving letters around the city. What began as a few letters tumbled into a new passion for Hannah Brencher, author of the new memoir, If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers.

hannahIn her book Brencher shares her journey of personal growth as well as how she serendipitously  created a new labor of love: to get letters of love to strangers who needed them.  She decided to extend an offer to the Internet: a promise that if someone needed a letter in the mail, she would personally handwrite and mail one, no questions asked. Amazingly, her inbox was flooded with requests, some with heartbreaking stories of loneliness, insecurity, and some needing just a plain-old reminder of friendship.

Since writing her book and creating her website MoreLoveLetters.com, she has been featured in a variety of publications including O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, and The Wall Street Journal.

If you enjoy letter writing and want to learn about someone else who shares this passion, you simply must read If You Find This Letter. Both Marys loved the book and were delighted when Ms. Brencher agreed to endorse our upcoming Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink

This book is a pure tribute to friendship, letter writing and, most of all, love. The shared experiences of loss, faith, and letting go between Mary and Mary aren’t just inspiring– they’re enough to push you out of your own comfort zone to be a little braver today. No doubt, this is the sort of story that will make you want to try harder, love people better, hold the good ones in your life tighter, and leave no collection of words left unsaid. In short, this book captures the real stuff of life. The real stuff.” – Hannah Brencher


A Recent Read on Friendship

Both Marys are avid readers, and today this Mary (Mary K) would like to share a recent read with the Mary & Me audience. Have you ever read a book that stays with you for days? This was one of those books for me. John Schlimm is an artist as well as an author, and I believe this book is one of his greatest masterpieces.


Five Years in Heaven is an inspirational memoir about a young man at a crossroads in his life who returns to his small hometown and forms an unlikely and mutually enriching friendship with an 87-year-old nun and artist who illuminates a divinely inspired blueprint for finding one’s purpose and answering the ultimate question “How do I get to Heaven?” 

God never gives us more than we can handle. When we see each joy and, yes, sorrow that comes to us as a gift, and we greet both with gratitude, that’s what makes us stronger people. That gratitude is what helps us build our faith and gives us purpose while we’re here. Otherwise, so much would be unbearable.” (page 31)

That is just one of the nuggets of wisdom I jotted down as I read this beautiful book. “I want one,” I thought as I read the author’s story. “I want an old nun friend who can teach me with her wise words and gentle tone.” And then I realized I’d had that in my mother, if only I’d taken more time to really listen to her, and hadn’t been so busy chasing babies around whenever I’d visited. Like Sister Augustine, my mother was an artist and devout in her faith. Sister Augustine was a rare old soul, open and loving. To think that a young man such as Schlimm could connect and learn from her says something about his soul as well. This was more than a friendship~ it was about two quiet souls connecting in a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad. This will be a story that stays with me for a long time. I purchased a copy for my library, and will be encouraging my patrons to read it. I expect to make it one of our Book Club selections, as well.

These days, people are so caught up in a world that’s competitive and full of temptations. Everyone wants something bigger or more than their neighbor has. A bigger house, a bigger job, more money, more clothes, more gadgets, more popularity, more things. Everyone tries to outdo one another. It’s rare to hear of someone who wants a bigger heart, a bigger faith, or a bigger sense of gratitude for what they already have.” (page 77)

This book will make you want that bigger heart, bigger faith, bigger sense of gratitude.

Check out John’s website at http://johnschlimm.com/

Happy Mother’s Day, with a sneak peek at Mary & Me, on Mothers~

How much of who we are, or who we become, is because of our mother’s example? That is one of the questions the Marys delve into as they look at the example of their mother’s friendships in Chapter Two of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. Mary K’s mother died in November 2010, so she relied on her own memories, a box full of letters her mother had written her grandmother during her child-rearing days, and a Memory Book her mother had filled out. Mary H’s mother is still alive, so her section of the chapter is an interview with her. The book includes a Discussion Section at the back, ideal for use by women’s groups and Book Clubs. In honor of Mother’s Day, we gift potential readers with a sneak peek at the Chapter Two discussion section:

Chapter Two: Mothers
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
—Mitch Albom, For One More Day
1. Mary K.’s mother had not been an example in regards to adult female friendships. How important do you think it is to be a role model to our daughters in this aspect?

2. Both Mary K. and her mother struggled to balance a tight budget with raising babies. Do you think it is harder for a mother in poverty to develop friendships? Why or why not?

3. Mary K.’s mother was afraid to tell her friend about her cancer, worrying that she would tell her “I told you so” about her smoking. Are there any friends you would hesitate to share a cancer diagnosis with?

4. Mary H. enjoyed interviewing her mom about her friendships. What questions would you ask your mom about friendship? What other questions might you like to ask her?

5. Mary H. had never heard about Nancy, her mom’s friend who had tragically died in a fire. Have you ever learned anything about or from your mother that surprised you?

6. What do you remember about your mother’s friends?