essays / nonfiction

Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us Edited by Colleen Kinder

I joined a virtual book tour for Letter to a Stranger because the concept was so fun! I spent a lot of time pre-pandemic eavesdropping and wondering about the people I encountered in my every day life so a book of essays about the strangers that drift in and out of all our lives.

This is a book of pretty short essays so while some were not my style and more about the author than the stranger, it was still packed with a lot of fun stories. Since we haven’t really traveled since 2019, it was fun (if a little wistful) to glimpse into people’s lives all over the world. A little mental vacation. I was expecting more domestic stories for some reason–the people we see at lunch across the quad, the people in line at the library–mentioned but it was largely about people encountered while far from home which I found interesting.

This was also a silly assumption on my end but I was surprised it was set up as literally letters to a stranger! I was thinking of that more as a metaphor and the essays would be more traditional essays about the person rather than a letter addressed directly to them. I think it is because the title is Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us which is a little contradictory.

I focused on the essay part but the book is in fact, letters. They address the subject as “you” and are quite familiar and factual about their encounters (some were not brief!) rather than speculative as I has expected. The back text is “Sixty-five extraordinary writers grapple with this mystery: How can an ephemeral encounter with a stranger leave such an eternal mark?” which to me, made me think of very brief encounters with people you know virtually or literally nothing about. That’s true of a few letters but I wouldn’t think it’s the majority.

That said, it still is a fun book and worth checking out! I just had to adjust my mindset going into what the book was really like versus my expectations. The essays are from a wide variety of authors and a very well-traveled bunch!

It’s available for sale right now. I think it would be the perfect book to bring on vacation or any time when you might get interrupted, the essays are short and varied so easy to dip in and out of.

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