Letters to Me – A Book Review

Over the course of the next few months, there will be a number of small-press books making their way out into public view, collections of essays on a theme, carefully edited and lovingly written. This book is one of the first–and, in some ways, one of the most interesting. Nineteen writers were given this assignment: write a letter to your younger self somewhere between the ages of 18 and 30. Advise, if you must, but basically help yourself to see that things have a way of working themselves out. These letters are meant to be offerings of encouragement and hope, written from a distinctly personal and well-informed point of view. After all, the writers know the recipients intimately–more intimately than anyone else.

I was delighted to find some old ‘friends’ in this collection – Lyla Lindquist, Tamára Lunardo, Shawn Smucker, Charity Singleton, J.B. Wood, Lore Ferguson, Anita Mathias – people I have previously encountered through their blogs and their comments on mine. And none of them disappoints. All are fine writers, good thinkers and excellent communicators.

I loved reading about Shawn’s blue-eyed girlfriend, Charity’s courageous act of resignation, Tamára’s heartfelt choice for life when faced with an unplanned pregnancy as a 19-year-old. Jim Wood begins with, ‘GET A GRIP!’–SO perfect for many of us as we look back at our angst-ridden younger selves. But he goes on to celebrate all that happened in those long-ago years, praising and encouraging himself-from-way-back-when. I think we all need to do that from time to time, don’t you? Look back with love and support?

If pushed, I guess I’d have to say that Lyla’s letter was particularly poignant for me, rich with wry, careful reflection and a superb pages-long metaphor of life-as-a-Rube-Goldberg-contraption:

So many people think there’s a sure-fire, idiot-proof way to know the right thing. They get this idea that God’s whole plan for every person on earth can be derailed with one small misstep. I suppose some do get a clear and certain sense of the way they are to go. But it seems that for many of us, the fleeces and pro/con lists, the long straws and coin flips are formalities. Sometimes we’re going to have to ‘fish or cut bait’ as my dad would say. We’re just going to have to make a guess. Maybe an educated guess, but it’ll be a guess all the same.

What I want you to know now is that it will work out, better than you could have known or planned. Because for many of us, life is less like following a road map than coursing through a Rube Goldberg contraption. It seems far more like an elaborate series of springs and pulleys, levers and ropes that sets a chain reaction into motion.”

And she is off and running for a series of beautifully described twists and turns, rolling down ramps, across all kinds of fascinating obstacles, always following the marble on its relentless path to somewhere. It’s gorgeously done and worth the price of the book all by itself.

Yes, Lyla is a friend. But she happens to be an inordinately talented one. Each person in this collection contributes to the whole in their own unique way, telling pieces of his or her story. If you know someone in this age bracket–18 to 30–who is feeling discouraged, a little bit lost, wondering where they’re headed, why not purchase a copy of this book and pass it along to them? I know they’ll find encouragement. I pray they’ll even find a small, sunlit piece of hope to hang onto when the way ahead feels decidedly murky. 

I was given a copy of this book for review purposes but received no other compensation for this essay.

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  1. Diana, thanks so much for your kindness here. A good day for me to hear these words. 🙂

  2. Sounds like a winner to me!

  3. Oh dear, is it one of ‘those’ days? If so, I’m glad to offer some very TRUE words of encouragement. Even if not so, I’m glad to do so. Because, honest and true – yours was my favorite. :>)

  4. It is a good read – quick and easy one, too.

  5. Well, the move was a little bittersweet. That kind of day 🙂 You’re very sweet.

    And in case you didn’t subscribe to the comments, I wanted to make sure you got my reply, that I just moved today — not September. I moved a small fraction of the archives with me, along with the comments, so it might look like it was earlier. But nope. Just today. So glad you’re still along for whatever the ride turns out to be. I treasure your encouragement and support.

  6. I scrolled down after I wrote that comment and realized that I’d seen those posts before, so I sorta figured it out.

    Lyla, you are a deeply gifted writer and thinker. And whether you know it or not, every single thing you write – ‘bad’ words or not – is deeply infused with your thoughtful spirituality. I hope this new space will free you from the constraints of making that writing sound or look a certain way, that you will relax into the powerful truth that who you are, who God has formed you to be, will bleed through every single word you write. And those words do not have to fall into some prescribed ‘christian’ format. I look forward to your work, to your reflection, to your honesty. And no, I am not sweet in the least. I am honest – and I recognize talent and intelligence.

  7. I can’t wait to get my hands on that book. I’ve read Lyla’s essay already. (I took a pre-publication peek), and yes, it was fabulous. Great review, Diana!

  8. Thanks, Jennifer. It may have just been me, but I found the essays written by people whose writing I am familiar with to be the strongest in the collection. There were one or two others that stood out, but overall – it’s that THC crowd + Tamara that carried the day – for me, at least.