Letters from a most unlikely friendship

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 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 enquiring 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.

Now also available as an audio book narrated by Ailsa and Tony.

“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 – read more from Charlotte Wood in her speech from the launch of The Attachment

“…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

“This memoir is a true delight.” – Anna Carew-Reid review  in The Sunday Times.

“The Attachment is a hymn to detachment. This is usually understood as a lack of passion, but more properly it is the freedom arising out of wonder at the richness of reality that makes one free to resist the temptation to hasty judgment. It privileges exploration over repetition of recipes, engagement over dismissal, conversation over shouting, truth over certainty, reconciliation over exclusion, and reflection over barracking.                                                                                                                                       These are the qualities needed in public conversation about the issues that divide us and our society.” – Andrew Hamilton’s review in Eureka Street.

“……No question is out of bounds, from the inmost psychology – they discuss the close relationship between spirituality and psychology in the interior life – to clergy sex abuse, vocation, loss, and especially the modern taboos of death and dying.                        Doherty’s brother and Piper’s husband, both named Peter, die during the course of their correspondence, and both describe the events with a stark, profound and moving honesty. It seems each was able to provide a measure of consolation to the other, and that is real friendship.” – Reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

“…..It is a lovely homage to friendship.” – The Guardian chooses The Attachment.

“…..There is a sharing of souls and a reframing of perspectives and worldviews through an encounter with difference and divergence.” – Monica Dutton reviews the book with such generosity and insight in The Good Oil.


Ailsa Piper and Tony Doherty

Ailsa Piper and Tony Doherty can also be booked as a double act for speaking engagements.

Photos from the book launch