The Attachment: Letters from a Most Unlikely Friendship

A collection of letters between writer and performer Ailsa Piper & Monsignor Tony Doherty.
A celebration of friendship, renewal, nature and the human spirit told through letters between a writer and an 80-year-old priest. Image: Allen & Unwin.

A celebration of friendship, renewal, nature and the human spirit told through letters between a writer and an 80-year-old priest. Original, surprising – both highly entertaining and deeply moving.

Dear Ailsa, Sometimes I wonder whether the friendship that has caught us both – a most unlikely friendship I must confess – might find an echo in a far off Irish village somewhere in the wild, windy hills of old Donegal. Or am I allowing that uncontrollable imagination of mine too much slack? 

This is the story of an unlikely friendship.

When priest and Sydneysider Mons Tony Doherty emailed Melbourne-based writer and performer Ailsa Piper to say how much he had enjoyed her latest book, he was met with a swift reply from a similarly inquiring mind. Soon emails were flying back and forth and back again. They exchanged stories of their experiences as sweaty pilgrims and dissected dinner party menus. They shared their delight in Mary Oliver’s poetry and wrestled with what it means to love and to grieve. This energetic exchange of words, questions and ideas grew into an unexpected but treasured friendship.

Collected here is that correspondence, brimming with empathy, humour and a fierce curiosity about each other and the worlds, shoes and histories that they inhabit. Described by one reader as ‘a demonstration of how to have a conversation and a friendship’, The Attachment is an intriguing, entertaining and moving celebration of family, faith, connection – even the correct time of day to enjoy rhubarb.

Dear Tony, Funny how our ears tune in to things. How our priorities shift based on who and what we know. How we come to care about such abstract or remote things through the experience of another. Lovely, somehow, but so serendipitous. All the other things we might care about. All that we might have missed had we not stopped to care for this person. I’m glad we stopped for each other.

‘To read this book is to be present at the unfurling of a tender friendship between two thoughtful, compassionate humans, and like all the best collections of letters it’s also a discursive wander through life’s big questions. It will make you grateful for what you have, while urging you to seize the day with the people you love … It will make you want to write letters: good ones. I will read this book again and again.’  Charlotte Wood, Stella Prize-winning author of The Natural Way of Things

‘… captures the intoxication of being swept into a new and deeply nourishing friendship. It fizzes with joy and humour, wrestles with agonising questions, always anchored in compassion and wisdom.’ Debra Oswald, author of Useful

‘The Attachment made me want to notice my world, love my world, shape it into words. It is a book about friendship but more than that, these two letter-writers – these unlikely friends – are mature enough to know the value of the moment, the value of friendship, how precious and fleeting life is … I was moved, and surprised, and completed the book in a veil of tears … The book enriched me, and inspired me.’ Sofie Laguna, Miles Franklin award-winning author of The Eye of the Sheep

‘From the first seed of recognition, the feverish exchange of ideas and confidences to a deep and abiding appreciation, The Attachment is a candid, illuminating journey into the heart of a profound and unexpected friendship, and a testament to the art of correspondence.’ Kat Stewart, actor 

‘… the chronicle of an unlikely but beautiful friendship that will inspire you to value your own friendships more highly, and to nurture them more carefully.’ Hugh Mackay, author of Beyond Belief

Author bios

Author and performer Ailsa Piper. Image: Allen & Unwin.

Ailsa Piper has made her life in the arts, having worked as a writer across many mediums, and as a director, actor, teacher, speaker and broadcaster – but for her, the most important labels are ‘walker’ and ‘friend’. Ailsa was co-winner of the Patrick White Playwright’s Award for her script Small Mercies, and her passions for walking and poetry were reflected in her memoir Sinning Across Spain. She is a collector of postcards, a student of three of the Romance languages, and a hopeless swimmer – but she is taking lessons.

Mons Tony Doherty. Image: Allen & Unwin.

Mons Tony Doherty was the parish priest at Rose Bay in Sydney for 12 years. Before that he was Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, which saw him oversee the erection of its spires in 2000 and also the visit of a Pope. This followed decades of work in adult education. Throughout his 50-plus years as a priest, he has written and published widely, in a quest to demystify religious language. He is a lover of good conversation, a passionate reader and swims daily in his beloved Sydney Harbour.

Both Ailsa and Tony are inspiring speakers and regular media contributors. They perform brilliantly as a double act, and can also see the text being performed on stage.

PUBLISHED: 29 March 2017 (April 2017 release)

IMPRINT: Allen & Unwin RRP: $29.99

CATEGORY: Biography/autobiography Extent: 352 pp Ebook: Yes

ORDERS: To place an order online, click here.

Published on 30 March 2017. Source: Allen & Unwin.

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