SOULMATES & STRANGERS by Palisadian Judith Umlas

Imagine being transported back in time to meet your mother when she was fifteen years old! Judith Umlas, a long-time Palisades resident, has had a version of this experience. She has published a new book, Soulmates & Strangers, about a long-distance correspondence between her mother Sylvia, who lived in the Bronx, and her pen pal Claudia, who lived in Lyon, France. Judy has written other books, among them the influential The Power of Acknowledgement, about how positive feedback improves both personal and professional relationships, but this book is very different.

Judy’s mother sent her first letter in 1936 when she was 15 and her pen pal was 16. Sylvia and Claudia became soul-mates. They recounted details of their very different lives, including films they loved and the boyfriends they liked at the time. The correspondence lasted for seventy years and led to a relationship between them as well as their families. In fact, even before her mother and Claudia were able to meet, Judy spent the summer of 1965 with Claudia and her husband Mario, whom she came to think of as her French parents. Sylvia and Claudia finally met soon after Judy’s summer in France, and it was back and forth for all following that wonderful summer. The relationship lasted nearly as long as the pen pals lived.