She knew it was a long shot but Ali Payne, a volunteer at charity Widowed & Young, put out the desperate plea on social media to find the copy of The Alchemist gifted to her by husband Jude who died in 2015.
Nicola Sturgeon saw the message on Twitter and immediately called on the public to help find the invaluable book. She said: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this special copy of a special book could be tracked down for @ali_payne. Come on Twitter – show your good side!”
The author Paulo Coelho, considered to be one of the most influential authors of all time, also jumped in to retweet the message to his 15.3 million followers.
The mum-of-two from Portobello said she was completely overwhelmed and shocked by the reaction to her post but heartened that such a significant response could mean if the book is still out there, it might find its way back to her.
“Since I posted about it I have been told of three inscriptions already, one in a photo sent from Germany,” Ali said. “I was somewhat astounded when I saw the First Minister had tweeted it and the kids were entertained that Reverend Richard Coles had too.”
Jude gave her the copy of the book when they first started dating, complete with an inscription, but years later after a clear-out, Ali discovered he had accidentally given the book away to charity.
During their relationship, the couple continued to write each other messages and letters, and it was only after his death from lymphoma that Ali realised how precious and powerful his words and handwriting are.
“I had forgotten about it until Jude died and then it was at the forefront of my head and I remember looking through and searching for his handwriting one day – I very much treasure it.
“A month before he died I asked him to write something for our two children too. We were about to lose him and I realised what a hard thing I was asking him to do, but handwriting is so powerful.
“I treasure anything that Jude has written to me and after rummaging around charity shops to find the book, I thought I’d try social media.”
Still in awe that Paulo Coelho has helped in her quest, Ali is beginning to believe that she may get the copy back.
“I couldn’t get over the fact he had retweeted it and now TV presenter Cathy Newman has shared it – with the kindness of strangers and a little bit of serendipity I may get it back.”