Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us

Algonquin. Mar. 2022. 336p. ed. by Colleen Kinder. ISBN 9781643751245. pap. $19.95. LIT
Kinder (Delaying the Real World), the editor of this sweet but often poignant collection, invited authors to write a letter to a stranger who impacted (or “haunted”) them in some way. The resulting 65 mesmerizing essays are categorized under seven themes, including “Gratitude,” “Mystery,” “Remorse,” and “Farewell.” Kinder writes that “any nagging ghost makes for a glorious muse,” as demonstrated by these letters set all over the globe (including Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Central America, Europe, and assorted cities around the United States), during varied moments in time. Contributors include Lauren Groff, Leslie Jamison, Elizabeth Kolbert, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Cutter Wood, and Rachel Yoder, whose letters describe memorable encounters with strangers that are sometimes charitable, comical, or romantic, and other times frightening or poignant. Several contributors describe impactful interactions with strangers, such as taxi drivers or shopkeepers, during childhood or early adulthood, often while they were traveling. Julia Glass writes a letter to the stranger who guided her around Florence, Italy, four decades ago. Other writers somberly describe family members who feel like strangers to them.
VERDICT This highly recommended collection of letters would appeal to many types of readers, including individuals interested in creative writing, the epistolary form, or travel literature.
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