Thursday, April 7, 2022

Letter to a Stranger

  Letter to a Stranger:  Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us
Editor:  Colleen Kinder
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2021. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1643751247 / 978-1643751245

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "We are born into a world of strangers."

Favorite Quote:  "These letters are gifts. The invitation to write a letter is a gift. The invitation to write a letter is a gift. The invitation of a fissure is a gift. It's a way of encountering the world that stays attuned to the incompleteness of our vision: the infinitude of what we can see, and the infinitude of what we can't. These letters say: I never had you. I never knew you. I am to see to it that I do not lose your."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


What a fascinating project! The author put a call out to other authors to "write a letter to a stranger who haunts you." She gets responses from around the world. She then compiles sixty five responses into this book.

The form and content of the letters are perhaps as diverse as the origins of the letters themselves. Nicaragua, Myanmar, Peru, Germany, Italy, India, China, Australia, France, Uganda, and several from the United States. Each letter is as individual as its writer and its individual audience; each one stands along. Yet, at the same time, there are common themes and a universality running through all of them. This book is yet another example that around the world, more unites us than divides us. A powerful lesson in a world so divided.

The letters are organized into sections:  symmetry, mystery, chemistry, gratitude, wonder, remorse, and farewell. All themes are ideas the reader can relate to, and all trigger an emotion. The form of the book itself triggers an emotion. A letter is contained. Yet, in this day of text messages, emails, and other forms of communication, a letter is at the same time expansive, allowing room to explain and breathe. The idea of writing to a stranger is expansive because perhaps in that anonymity more can be said. A letter is also intimate and personal. Reading someone else's letter can seem an illicit pleasure, or, in this case, an invitation into someone's world. That is the emotion of it.

"My letter ... wasn't the account of an entire life; it was an account of brushing up - just briefly - against the infinitude of another person, and feeling him brush up against my own. It opened up a seam in my memory and asked me to peer through it. It was a fissure. This is a book of fissures. They live in all of us."

Throughout this book, as I read letter after letter, strangers who touched my life come to mind. Who would I write to if I were to embark on this journey? What would I say? So, here goes one of mine...

Dear Fellow Book Lover,

Welcome. I do not know you, but I feel that you are a friend. A book lover who has found their way here surely must be a friend. I see you at the library and look to see what you are reading. I see you so engrossed in your book on a train. I see you on the park bench. I see you at story time perhaps passing your love of reading on. I see you at the bookstore mulling over choices. 

I do not know you, yet the book you hold is one I love. I want to ask you what you think of it. How did it move you... Were your surprised when... Could you believe that ending... What other books do you love.... I want to talk and get lost in a world of books.

I hope you enjoy what you read here and learning something about this stranger writing these words. I hope you walk away with a recommendation. I hope you come back.

Happy reading, fellow book lover!

How about you? Who is the stranger who comes to your mind?

About the Book

When Colleen Kinder put out a call for authors to “write a letter to a stranger who haunts you,” she opened the floodgates. The responses—intimate and addictive, all in the form of letters, all written in the second person—began pouring in. These short, insightful essays by today’s best literary minds are organized around such themes as Grati­tude, Wonder, and Farewell, and guide us both across the globe and through the mysteries of human connection.

Bestselling author Leslie Jamison, who provides the foreword, reveals she has been haunted for years by a traveling magician she met in Nicaragua. Journalist Ted Conover writes his missive to a stranger he met on a New Yorker assignment in Rwanda. From the story of Vanessa Hua’s shoe shopper in China to the tale of Michelle Tea’s encounter in a Texas tattoo parlor, these pieces are replete with observations about how to live and what to seek, and how a stranger’s loaded glance, shared smile, or question posed can alter the course of our lives. Moving and unforgettable, Letter to a Stranger is an irresistible read for any literary traveler and the perfect gift for anyone who is haunted by a person they met once but will remember forever.

About the Author

Colleen Kinder is an essayist and editor whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, National Geographic Traveler,, and The Best American Travel Writing. She has taught writing at Yale University, the Chautauqua Institution, and Semester at Sea. A Fulbright Scholar, Kinder received her MFA at the University of Iowa and is the author of Delaying the Real World and the cofounder of the online magazine Off Assignment.

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