Friday, 3 April 2009


My mother loaned me a book recently, and I never wanted it to end.

It was The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, and sadly it did end, on page 268.

I loved it so much, in a bittersweet fashion, that it nearly compelled me to write a review of it, but as I suck at reviews I thought I would try to mention just one little part that leapt off the page at me, lodged in my brain, and keeps waving to get my attention.

The quote is on page 113, in a letter from Juliet to Dawsey, and goes like this:
Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person's name suddenly pops up everywhere? My friend Sophie calls it coincidence, and Reverend Simpless calls it grace. He thinks that if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out in the world, and 'fruitfulness' is drawn in.
I've seen this called serendipity too, and probably one of the most common experience of it would be when you buy a new car and then you see that model everywhere. I suspect that it probably has more to do with the fresh eyes that new experiences give us; when we look we finally see what was always there but never noticed.

For me this was one of the hardest things about miscarriage. There were pregnant women and children everywhere, all of a sudden. They'd been lurking around the periphery of my vision, just biding their time, and then BAM! there they were, front and centre, reminding me of the hole within.

After a while we started laughing about it. Every second commercial seemed to be for nappies or teeny tiny little bitty clothing in pink or blue (and sometimes green). We would exhange glances, my partner and I, and give each other the gift of a secret smile that wasn't entirely honest in its happiness.

When a friend rang to tell us he and his wife were expecting their second child I fixed the grin in my voice (work has made me good at moderating my tone) and congratulated them. Actually I felt a flash of anger, rage almost, at their good luck and our bad fortune.

This story has a happy ending, and it's name is Wriggly. Not everyone is so blessed. There will be people out there right now, around you as you read this maybe, experiencing the invisible stabs of grace. They'll be averting their eyes from strollers, being over enthusiastic about someone else's baby photos, having an inexplicably grumpy month, or just seeming perfectly normal. You'll never know who they are, and maybe at some time you'll be one of them too.

So let's be gentle with each other. Not every hurt is voiced, not every scar is visible. Grace can have it's cruel side too.


The ex-expat said...

I think that's why I love post secret so much. Everyone's got a secret they are hiding.

homepaddock said...

Thank you for these wise and gentle words.

I hope you'll excuse a link because I too loved this book, like you didn't want it to end but reviewed it last year:

My sadness at finishing it was compounded by the knowledge the author died before it was published so there will be no more gems from her.

Anna said...

Julie, you've categorised this post under 'being nice', and that made me really happy.

Being nice is so underrated as a political value. It's one of my core feminist commitments - to the extent that I use to describe myself as a 'nicist', but people thought I was saying narcissist, so I had to stop. (Not that I'm unfailingly nice, mind you.)

I've sometimes wondered (particularly during the recent wave of trolls) whether THM's motto should be 'Be nice or f*ck off'.

Anonymous said...

In a kind of corollary to the seeing pregnant people everywhere thing I remember during both my pregnancies it seemed like every book I read and every movie and soap opera I watched featured miscarriage, abortion, or stillbirth.

Julie said...

I agree hungrymama about the grace in that too, I strongly recommend against reading The Time Traveller's Wife whilst 6 months pregnant (having learned the hard way - it's a fantastic book though!) Also I would avoid Midwives by Chris Bohjalian and Eleven Hours by Paulinna Simmons (also both excellent books, which I read years ago and thought to myself this would be a terrifying read whilst preggers).

Thanks for the feedback, I was a bit nervous about this post.