Archive for Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book prompts discussion of past letter exchange

October 15, 2009

Once monthly, I meet with a group of women attorneys.

We have met for over half a decade in one another’s homes. While the group is widely divergent — judges, prosecutors, estate planners, child advocates, immigration lawyers, corporate attorneys — we all share a love of reading.

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows was our latest read. The book is set in the l940s and includes a series of letters between Julie Ashton, an author looking for her next book, and a man living on the island of Guernsey, a British isle once occupied by the Nazis.

The exchange of letters grows to include members of the Pie Society, a group formed on the spur of the moment to escape arrest by the Germans for being out after curfew.

As letters are exchanged between the members of the island and Julie Ashton, human bonds are formed and eventually a trip is made to the island, where the story continues to unfold in unexpected ways.

It is the exchange of letter and the bonds formed that we talked about the most.

There was of course discussion about the quality and style of writing. Attorneys are quite skilled at discourse and writing, as it forms the foundation of their work. They can be remarkably shrewd, often quickly and decisively, in their assessment of people.

At the heart of their work however is a human element; an awareness and respect for the human capacity to endure and grow from hardship and heartache.

Much of an attorney’s work is based on law, written authority and cases that have relied on or clarified those laws.

Law evolves over time, which means most good attorneys have a grasp of history and its importance; this group is no exception.

So as we discuss any particular book, the discourse often takes a path along a variety of subjects.

In this case, we fell upon letter writing, as this book is entirely based upon an exchange of letters. Quietude fell upon the group as we remembered and related letters we had sent and received over time.

I have two: one from a young client who wrote to me after hearing of my diagnosis of breast cancer, and the second from a nephew who is serving in Afghanistan. The letters are filled with news of daily life, fear balanced by home and promise.

Unlike e-mails, a letter has been touched by the hand of its author, time taken to sit down and compose its contents, feeling curls around the words, bringing them to life on paper.

The voice of the writer can be sensed — that of a seasoned soldier over the waters from far away lands and that of a youth across the prairie where the wind blows and day eases into night. Human bonds formed in unexpected ways.

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