Colleen Kinder, cofounder of Off Assignment magazine, collects 65 essays--poignant, vividly described and thought-provoking--in her first nonfiction anthology, Letter to a Stranger. Drawn from OA's long-running column of the same name, Letter to a Stranger takes readers into the moments that haunt these writers. Authors ranging from established (Julia Glass, Pico Iyer, Lauren Groff) to emerging here chronicle chance meetings, often with people wildly different from themselves, that have echoed throughout their lives.
In seven sections, which bear names like "Chemistry," "Wonder," "Remorse" and "Farewell," the essays explore the immediate and lasting effects of the moments their authors can't stop thinking about. Most of them celebrate the human goodness of brief encounters: the bit of much-needed advice or perspective, the directions (or rides) given in a strange city, the woman who walked beside Sarah Perry on a frightening night in Yonkers and then put her in a taxi. Some of them express regret: the longing for a deeper relationship, the author's inability to help or comfort, or the author's realization that they had made incorrect assumptions about a person or group. All of the essays take readers into a particular place and time: a crowded neighborhood in Beijing, a mountain in Peru, a Dallas tattoo parlor, the Chilean base on Antarctica. Spanning several decades and all seven continents, the essays' contents and settings vary widely. But each one is a thoughtful, engaging, gemlike tribute to a person whose presence changed each writer's life forever. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams