Book Review: The Guineveres

Review by Mary Jedlicka Humston

If you’re looking for a book on friendship, consider picking up The Guineveres by Sarah Domet.

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Four teens, all named Guinevere, meet at a Catholic convent, a boarding school where residents aren’t clamoring for admittance. Taking place in a war torn country, the girls discover that convent life is strict, challenging, and full of deprivation.
Vere, Win, Gwen, and Ginny aren’t at the convent by choice. Each has tragic reasons for attending there. Each faces personal struggles. Each finds comfort and solace with the others. However, it’s clear they’d never have become friends if their names hadn’t been Guinevere, for it’s the name that solidifies their unified loyalty. War plays an integral part in this debut novel alongside the medical and nursing home facility the nuns operate besides the school.
The author weaves the Guineveres’ past, present and future into the novel, so the reader comes away knowing the why, what, and where of each of their lives.
Four very different girls become friends under unique, sad circumstances. Readers will find themselves rooting for them, both individually and as a foursome. I found it an absorbing, worthwhile read.

Women’s Friendship Day Giveaway with $25 Barnes & Noble

This giveaway has ended. Thank you to all who entered on our Facebook Page.

It’s here…your chance to win a prize package on September 18, National Women’s Friendship Day, valued at well over $60. Not only are we celebrating female friendship, but also the one-year anniversary of our book release.

First of all, drumroll please…

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We have a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card. (not the one pictured)

Next up, a copy of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink

mary-meOne winner will also get all this; two packages of notecards, “A Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends” by Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw, a package of cloud/sky paper with matching envelopes, “Signed, Sealed, Delevered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing” by Nina Sankovitch (who wrote a blurb endorsement of our book), “Gift of a Letter” by Alexandra Stoddard, the two books recently reviewed by Mary Potter Kenyon, the lovely “Pen to Paper: Artists’ Handwritten Letters” edited by Mary Savig, and “Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship” by Melanie Shankle, and because both of the Marys journal; “The Journal Keeper” by Phyllis Theroux, “Grace for the Moment 365-day journaling devotional” by Max Lucado, and “The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Finally, a box of Sunblooms stationery by Amy Butler with 30 sheets of 6 different designs and matching envelopes.

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How do you enter?

*Go to our Facebook Page and “Like” it, if you haven’t already.

*Share the Giveaway Post on our Page

*Comment under the Giveaway Post

That’s it. Three easy steps. One winner’s name will be randomly drawn on the evening of September 18.

Good luck!

Book Review: Nobody’s Cuter Than You

Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship was released in April 2015, weeks after Mary & I had submitted our completed manuscript for the September-released Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink.

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Had we been aware of this book, we would have added it to our resource chapter. Had we read it, I would have wondered if my friend Mary had unconsciously picked up a phrase from it.

On page 16 of our book, Mary Jedlicka Humston looked back on our first meeting:

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On page 3 of Shankle’s book, she said much the same about her first meeting with her friend Gulley.

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I read Shankle’s wonderful book in one sitting, marveling at how much like the other Mary she was; forming female friendships with such ease. She was Mary JH, but with more money! Yes, I found myself wondering as I read her book what my life would have been like in elementary school if I’d had the wardrobe Shankle had. Is it easier to make friends with the right clothes, the hip hairstyle, and keys to a car handed to you on your 16th birthday?  It made me think of our Book Club discussion questions at the back of our book.

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Certainly having parents pay for college and access to Dad’s credit card made Shankle’s college days more fun than the years at UNI for either of the Marys, who had to pay their own way. I was a married woman my second year of college, had my first baby and worked part-time around my husband’s college classes and part-time job. There were no nights of partying, no groups of female friends. By the time I graduated college, I was the mother of four children, with four more to follow. When would I have had time for weekend road trips in which to bond with fellow females?  I found myself getting a little, um…jealous, and if you’ve read our book, you know that is a very uncomfortable feeling for me. I was even envious of Shankle’s fourth grade summer camp and the resulting turning point in her faith in Christ. I had to wait until age 51, and the loss of my mother for my own turning point in faith.

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Surprisingly, Shankle tackles the topic of jealousy in her book, too. Maybe one can’t discuss female friendship without broaching the subject. Perhaps everyone deals with envy at some point in their life.

The similarities between our books doesn’t end there. The author obviously shares a love of epigraphs with me. (the quotes of others at the beginning of each chapter). She also touches on loss, and the importance of being there for a friend.  Readers of Mary & Me know intimately of how my friendship with Mary deepened after I faced the loss of my husband.

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After reading Melanie Shankle’s memoir, I want to read her other books. I’m now a follower of her Big Mama blog. I want Melanie and her Gulley to sit down at a table with Mary and me to share a cup of tea (or coffee~ it is not clear which beverage this author prefers) and talk into the night about friendship, faith, jealousy, and what it means to be a Christian woman.

Readers will have a chance to win a copy of this book in the giveaway that I will be posting on our blog tomorrow.  Not only will we be giving away several books, a journal, and stationery, but a Barnes & Noble gift card is involved~  The giveaway drawing will be held next Sunday, September 18, which just happens to be National Women’s Friendship Day.

Book Review: The Bridge Ladies

reviewed by Mary Jedlicka Humston

“Maybe it’s the game that keeps them together more than the bonds of friendship. Maybe Bridge itself is the glue that has kept the ladies together for over fifty years. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.” The Bridge Ladies, pg. 316

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For the past 55 years on Mondays around noon, Bette, Bea, Jackie, Rhoda, and Roz faithfully gather for lunch and bridge.

Roz’s daughter, Betsy Lerner, and the other women’s children, watched their mothers congregate at each other’s homes while growing up. The longevity of these friendships captivated Lerner. Enough so, that Lerner, the author of two other books and a partner of a literary agency, spent nearly three years attending their bridge sessions and observing them. She visited and interviewed all five Bridge Ladies multiple times, often in their own homes, to better understand the unique bond between the women. She also details (often humorously) her struggle to learn the game by taking lessons from a variety of teachers. What resulted is a fascinating book on friendship.

Interwoven amid the account of these enduring relationships is also the unwrapping of a mother-daughter story, that of Lerner and Roz. Lerner, who grew up in the 70s, isn’t shy about sharing her personal history of that time period with some nitty-gritty details.
But I most enjoyed the Bridge Ladies’ stories, complete with current events from each decade. We learn how they not only shared their joys but stoically weathered parenting challenges, tragedies, and the losses of their long-married spouses (with nary a divorce among them).

If you read The Bridge Ladies for the friendship theme alone, you won’t be disappointed.
If you love bridge, you’ll enjoy this book even further. Though I never learned the game, I’ve played a variety of cards since elementary school. I found the specific bridge details puzzling, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

If you want to read the angst of a mother-daughter relationship, then you have another reason to pick up this book.

I believe The Bridge Ladies and their unique friendship is best summed up by Lerner’s mother Roz when she says, “That’s what we do.” It’s a humble but apt statement on the steadfastness, love, and joy of long, enduring friendships.

 

Celebrate National Female Friendship Month in September

by Mary Jedlicka Humston

      “The greatest gift of life is friendship. And I have received it.”- Hubert H. Humphrey

Just how many close friends do you have? A Girlfriends survey conducted by Family Circle magazine found 52% of women have between three and five, 19% have six or more, but 4% of respondents said they had no one they could claim as a close friend.
Are you among the one in five women who connect four or more times a day with friends through some form of social media?
Is not having enough time your greatest obstacle to making friends as an adult? If you answered yes, then you feel the same as 40% of the surveyed women.
Would you like to reconnect with a long-lost friend? So would nearly one-third of the survey respondents.

If you can relate to any of the above facts, then you fit right in with the 1,000 women who answered Family Circle’s Girlfriends survey. Purchase their Sept. 2016 issue, and you’ll be greeted with other factual tidbits about BFFs just like the ones above.

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How do you plan to celebrate Female Friendship Month?

Will you reach out to a friend from your past? If you replied yes, will you do so by writing a personal letter to tell her what she means to you?

Don’t want to write? Just sign and mail a greeting card, or send an email instead. Would you prefer a “real” conversation? Make a phone call.
Is there someone you can take out to lunch? Invite over for tea, coffee, and treats? Meet for a movie, hike, museum, or gallery exhibit?
Perhaps, a certain name keeps coming to mind. Why do you think that is? What are you going to do about it?

So, I ask again…
What will you do to celebrate your female friends in September?

 

*As for us, we’ll be celebrating friendship and the one-year anniversary of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink all month long, with special giveaways, reviews of books related to letter-writing and friendship, and by sharing websites we’ve discovered since our book was released in 2015.*

 

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?

Back to Writing…Letters~

It has been a very intense month of writing…on our book, that is, but not for letters. The manuscript for Mary & Me was submitted at 10:30 a.m. on February 26, 2015. The day after submission, the two co-writers woke up and wanted to…write letters.

letters 025Yes, ironically, during the process of writing a book about friendship and letters, our letter-writing took a hit. Both Marys have a stack of correspondence to answer.

The official release date for Mary & Me has been moved to September 8, and it is already available for pre-order through Amazon. Since September is International Women’s Friendship Month, this is an ideal month for our book publication. Stay tuned for tea parties, girl’s nights out, and even online events in celebration of the release.

In the meantime, in between edits and revisions with our editor, we will continue to review books and blogs related to friendship and letter-writing here, as well as on our Facebook page.

Thrift Store “Signs”

From Mary K~

Mary and I have taken on this co-writing book project with another partner, the God that guides us. Besides our shared interest in writing (letter and otherwise), we share a love of God, tea, reading, and stationery. And though both of us love a good thrift store, it could be said that as a mother of eight and a former eBay seller, I am master at the art of thrift-store shopping. In fact, my husband and I often spent time in thrift stores as part of our “date days.” I mention this in my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace (Familius, October 2014):

“At a Goodwill store just weeks before David’s death I’d lamented the lack of vintage stationery—the dearth of paper products in our thrift store adventures.
     “No one writes letters anymore,” I’d said. “So why don’t I ever find vintage paper and stationery here?”
      David had just smiled at the simplicity of his wife’s desires.
      The first time I visited a Goodwill store after David’s death, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I walked up and down the same aisles he and I had frequented together. At every turn, on nearly every shelf, there was something that caught my eye. That first solo trip, I filled a cart with books on grieving, boxes of stationery, pads of paper, scented candles, and pretty baskets. My eyes practically bugged out of my head when I spotted a flock of small bird statues similar to the ones David had given me the previous Christmas. It was as if someone had personally stocked the shelves with me in mind. I left the store in tears, holding bags of merchandise that felt like gifts from above. While I’d rarely seen stationery in my thrift store trips with David, after his death I couldn’t stop finding paper. There seemed to be no end to the books, cards, and stationery available.
     And I bought it all.” (page 70)

It was true that for two years after my husband’s death, I was finding stationery at every Goodwill I visited, filling several drawers and cabinets with the bounty. I now have enough stationery stocked away that I could write ten letters every day for the rest of my life and still not deplete the supply. Of course paper-lovers will understand that there is no such thing as “too much stationery,” and there is never enough. Two years after David’s death however, the abundance of stationery available at thrift stores abruptly stopped. The first time I left a shop without stationery, I thought it was a fluke, but after several months of not finding paper, I knew the source had dried up and it was back to normal in regards to my thrift store trips. By that time I had realized I would never be able to fill the hole that David had left with paper, anyway. Though I was extremely disappointed by the lack of stationery, it was eleven-year-old Abby who questioned it.

“Doesn’t God, or Daddy, still care about us? You don’t find stationery and I don’t find Littlest Pet Shop toys anymore.” (she’d been finding LPS toys at every thrift store we shopped, just as I was finding the stationery)

I pondered the valid question a moment before I answered.

“I think we were finding so many of the things we loved for those two years because we needed it more then. It means we are healing. God brings us what we need when we need it.”

In a similar vein, Mary and I have seen and experienced signs that God is blessing this book. We begin our writing sessions with prayer and ask for God’s guidance in who we are to approach for a guest essay. We have followed God’s leading in our choice of chapter topics. Repeatedly, we have gotten together and agreed on a topic or idea we thought the other had broached, only to discover that neither of us had brought it up. Where did that idea come from?

So, it has been nearly eight months since I have felt God’s hand in my thrift store forays. Until yesterday, that is. The first thing I spotted on a shelf  at Goodwill was the “Circle Journey” box. “Keep in touch. Write back & forth with someone special in a Circle Journey book. Capture life with words, images, energy and heart,” the words on the front of the box proclaimed. Inside are envelopes, photo corners, stickers, idea starter and a 60-page, Circle Journey book. “Start a Circle Journey book with a friend. Send it back and forth…then keep it forever,”  I continued reading on the back of the box. What an amazing idea in this world of e-mails and texting!  What a perfect idea for Mary and I, was my thought before I moved on to the bookshelves. The book I picked up first was The Friendships of Women, by Dee Brestin, a book we had compared ours to in the book proposal. I’d borrowed it through inter-library loan, so was glad to find a copy for my own bookshelf. I felt a chill go down my spine when in rapid succession, I added Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Pen Pals by Olivia Goldsmith, The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene, and Tea Time with God to my cart.

What is going on? I wondered. These are all books related to things Mary and I will be writing about: letter writing, friendship, and yes, tea. We are often drinking tea as we write, and mention it frequently in our letters. I smiled to myself, seeing these books as a sign that God is blessing our endeavor. The only thing missing is stationery, I thought wryly.

You guessed it. The next thrift store was a goldmine of stationery. Not one box, but matching boxes of cheery blue stationery with hot air balloons and a “Have a bright ‘n breezy day” greeting, priced at a mere 49-cents a box, a bounty I will share with Mary. There was a package of lovely flower print paper and envelopes, with a butterfly at the top and bumblebees at the bottom, both full of significance for me, 88-cents and my next choice for a letter to Mary. Then there was the Main Street Press stationery folio for 99-cents and a huge bag of notepads and another filled with designed printer paper, along with a box of vintage Normal Rockwell print stationery. For less than $10 total, I was blessed with a gift that will bring me (and the recipients of my future letters) joy for months.

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And once again, I am given a sign in my thrift store finds. God is, indeed, in this “Mary & Me” project.

Book Contract Signed!

Today was a milestone day as Mary Potter Kenyon and Mary Jedlicka Humston signed a contract with Familius for their book with the working title Mary & Me: Two Lives in Letters. Whether you are intrigued by the art of the handwritten letter, or by various aspects of female friendship, you will want to follow our blog as we share photos, websites, interviews, book reviews and essays related to the subject of our book, which is described in this section of Mary Potter Kenyon’s introduction:

It has never been the length of the friendship that brought astonishment. After all, the majority of baby boomers could likely claim a long-standing friendship in their lives. No, it was always the letters; the pen on paper, inside a stamped envelope, mailed-in-a-mailbox letter that was awe-inspiring.

            “You’ve been writing letters every week for over twenty-five years?” The question always evokes disbelief, particularly since the dawn of the Internet and e-mail. We quickly correct the misconception.

            “Well, at least one letter, but usually more. We write each other three or four letters a week. And we never wait for a return letter before beginning another.”

            Conservatively speaking, at just three letters a week for twenty-five years, that would equal 3900 letters each, but we’d both agree that estimate is much too low. We have, on occasion, written the other two letters in a single day.

            This book will explore a friendship that began in June 1986 and will most likely not end until “death do us part.” The fact that one of the women in this relationship had never really had other female friends outside of her sisters while the other woman had too many to count is all part of the story.

For many years, ours was primarily a letter-writing friendship with a few face-to-face visits now and then. That changed in November 2011, when we traveled six hours to attend a writer’s conference and stayed at a motel together for a few nights.

When my husband David unexpectedly died a few months later, our relationship deepened. In fact, on the morning of March 27, 2012, I’d been sitting on the couch writing a letter to Mary when I decided to wake my husband for his coffee. For at least thirty minutes I’d been sitting within arm’s reach of David’s chair where he sat with his eyes closed. When I leaned over, touching his arm and whispering his name, he did not respond.

I didn’t even know he was gone, I would repeat over and over to my sisters. How could I not know my husband was dead? I was just sitting there drinking coffee and writing a letter to Mary, and all the while my husband was dead.

We will also be including essays from other women that display a unique aspect of friendship,including a woman whose primary support during her son’s cancer was an online group of women that she would only meet in person at her son’s funeral and another woman whose life was saved by a virtual stranger who is now her best friend. The final section will include chapter-by-chapter discussion questions for groups to reflect on in their studies and book clubs.

mary and me signing contract