For years, Jessica Biel had a dream of finding a book to give away. She loved books. She loved reading. But she was also a devoted mother, a TV star and a singleton.
It was a big challenge.
“I was both excited and terrified to give away a book,” she said in a recent interview. “I would give one to my friend or give one to my sister in Dallas. I gave them a book for their birthday. But it took me two or three years. Then one day I was like, ‘Is it because I don’t like the book? Is it because I’m too strict with myself?’ It was a question I couldn’t answer.”
Finally, she went to an auction website and bought a used copy of “Somewhere Between: Girl at the Center of The Universe” by Alissa Quart. That was in June of 2014.
Eleven months later, Biel wrote an email to Quart, and a friendship began.
“Now,” Biel said, “we’re both widows. I’m in my mid-40s. But we speak and email almost every day. My life story with Alissa’s story is very different, but the themes are very similar. We have our ups and downs, but we always end up in a place of love and empathy.”
Now, Biel is giving away a book. And she got it for free.
“Somewhere Between” is a memoir by Quart, a writer-at-large for The New Yorker, about her experience raising a son with multiple disabilities at age 25. The book includes a moving essay about the death of Biel’s son, Izaak, at age 19.
Biel decided to give the book away to a reader who was experiencing some challenges. So Biel emailed Quart — “I know you would never presume to be able to figure out what makes someone tick,” she said — and told her about a reader she knew who was also dealing with challenging circumstances.
“She literally wrote back, ‘We would love it,’” Biel said. “We just spoke for hours.”
On Wednesday, Biel announced on Twitter that she’d be giving away the paperback edition of “Somewhere Between” for free to reader who responded to her tweet telling them how they were doing. “Looking for someone who needs that book?” she asked.
And she got her answer:
Here are the letter and email that Jessica Biel sent to Alissa Quart after a yearlong relationship:
Alissa Quart, you lived to be 168, and we didn’t know it
It wasn’t until June that you finally decided to write about this, your chosen theme of life as this crazy sum of the stages of being human. And yet, it took a year to write that book. You took your time. You were afraid to do something you knew you needed to do, but could not do. Some time in your life, you will understand that fear as courage. Some time in your life, you will understand why you have chosen to do what you have done and what your role was.
But most of all, if we may make a moment of this momentary pause, maybe remember when we walked into Alissa’s apartment for the first time and the first page of your book shook you with a seed of something that could change your life. It will not have been easy for you to tell yourself that you knew what you were getting into and that you would live it. It will not have been easy for you to tell yourself that you would win. But if we are here to be grateful for what you are doing with your life and your child and your family, you should know this: no matter how tiny your victory may seem, it can be as big as we can imagine it. That simple little point of light of a book will shine bright for someone. It will certainly shine for me. In its early pages, we will be determined that that point of light will shine on us. Because that is the point of light and light is the way we get to knowing. It is in the raising up of our children and the experiencing of their losses. And it is in watching people together who mean the most to us for creating the lives we have, and who know us as we are, and who love and cherish us for who we are, and who love and adore each other and whom we love and cherish.
So, to you, Alissa: We need this book. We are empty. We are lost. We are drained. We