(More) Reader Recommendations!
In September 2020 we shared Reader Recommendations from the Flea Market Love Letters community following the What Should I Read Next episode. Gratefully, the recommendations have kept rolling in! So we're back with a second installment of this much appreciated resource. Happy browsing and may your TBR be twice the length when you're done!
"The Magical Language of Others" by E.J. Koh
Goodreads Summary: "The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.
As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history—her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre—and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love? Eun Ji Koh fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that are essential reading for anyone who has ever had to balance love, longing, heartbreak, and joy.
The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing—in Eun Ji Koh—a singular, incandescent voice."
"Letters to Memory" by Karen Tei Yamashita
Goodreads Summary: "LETTERS TO MEMORY by Karen Tei Yamashita is one outcome of the compilation of the Yamashita family archives. She sifts through letters, photos, documents, journals and art relating to her Japanese-American family. The central event of this archive is the second world war, with Japanese-Americans rounded up in detention camps as the two countries went to war, a war that finally ended with the dawn of the atomic age. Yamashita makes sense of this record and the people in it through her own letters to imagined correspondents - muses, as she calls them in an afterword. There is much here about identity, loyalty, memory, family, faith and philosophy. For a book centered on Japan and America, there is a surprising amount of recourse to Indian myth and folklore. But there's also the Iliad, the Bible, and Yamashita's own more agnostic worldview. Finally, this is, in the best sense, a book about everything. Everything that matters."
"The Convict Lover" by Merilyn Simonds
Goodreads Summary: "In 1987, writer Merilyn Simonds found a cache of letters, albums, clippings and other memorabilia in the attic of her Kingston, Ontario, home, the bits and pieces of an unknown woman's life. Among the overflowing boxes and stuffed sugar sacks was a tin box that held one complete, brief collection of letters from the months immediately after the First World War in 1919, a one-way correspondence written in pencil on flimsy paper, undated and without postmarks. From this careless jumble of pages, remarkable individuals and events emerged: a convict, a penitentiary, a village girl, a life in small town Canada at the end of the Great War. Merilyn Simonds was drawn irresistibly to the lives of Joe "Daddy Long Legs," a thief and con artist incarcerated inside the stone fortress that was the country's most notorious prison, and of Phyllis Halliday, a seventeen-year-old schoolgirl whose family home bordered the prison quarry and who fell under the spell of a man she could never meet or touch, except through their clandestine correspondence."
"I Will Always Write Back" by Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda with Liz Welch
Goodreads Summary: "The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from an impoverished city in Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.
It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin's class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place. All the other kids picked countries like France or Germany, but when Caitlin saw Zimbabwe written on the board, it sounded like the most exotic place she had ever heard of--so she chose it.
Martin was lucky to even receive a pen pal letter. There were only ten letters, and forty kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one.
That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.
In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends --and better people--through letters. Their story will inspire readers to look beyond their own lives and wonder about the world at large and their place in it."
"Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White" by Melissa Sweet
Goodreads Summary: "“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White's granddaughter."
"Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards" by Robert Olen Butler
Goodreads Summary: "In his dazzling new book of stories, Butler explores America by finding artistic inspiration in an unlikely and fascinating place--the backs of postcards from the early 20th century."
"The Pull of the Stars" by Emma Donoghue
Goodreads Summary: "In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders -- Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police , and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds."
"In Falling Snow" by Mary Rose McColl
Goodreads Summary: "A vivid and compelling story of love, war and secrets, set against the backdrop of WWI France. 'In the beginning, it was the summers I remembered - long warm days under the palest blue skies, the cornflowers and forget-me-nots lining the road through the Lys forest, the buzz of insects going about their work, Violet telling me lies.' Iris is getting old. A widow, her days are spent living quietly and worrying about her granddaughter, Grace, a headstrong young doctor. It's a small sort of life. But one day an invitation comes for Iris through the post to a reunion in France, where she served in a hospital during WWI. Determined to go, Iris is overcome by the memories of the past, when as a shy, naive young woman she followed her fifteen-year-old brother, Tom, to France in 1914 intending to bring him home. On her way to find Tom, Iris comes across the charismatic Miss Ivens, who is setting up a field hospital in the old abbey of Royaumont, north of Paris. Putting her fears aside, Iris decides to stay at Royaumont, and it is there that she truly comes of age, finding her capability and her strength, discovering her passion for medicine, making friends with the vivacious Violet and falling in love. But war is a brutal thing, and when the ultimate tragedy happens, there is a terrible price that Iris has to pay, a price that will echo down the generations. A moving and uplifting novel about the small, unsung acts of heroism of which love makes us capable."
"Witchmark" by C.L. Polk
Goodreads Summary: "In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.
Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.
When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen."
"As Always, Jack" by Emma Sweeney
Goodreads Summary: "Near the end of WWII, a Navy pilot meets and falls in love with a beautiful California girl. They have a brief two weeks together before he is shipped off to the South Pacific. This is an engaging collection of his letters, compiled by the daughter he never got to meet. Full of poignant detail—a chronicle of the passions and fears of wartime—the book is the ultimate love story of America's “greatest generation."
"Meet Me At The Museum" by Anne Youngson
Goodreads Summary: "When the curator of a Danish museum responds to a query about ancient exhibits, he doesn’t expect a reply. When Tina Hopgood first wrote it, nor did she …
Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. He does not know that a query from a Mrs Tina Hopgood about a world-famous antiquity in his museum is about to alter the course of his life.
Oceans apart, an unexpected correspondence flourishes as they discover shared passions: for history and nature; for useless objects left behind by loved ones; for the ancient and modern world, what is lost in time, what is gained and what has stayed the same. Through intimate stories of joy, anguish, and discovery, each one bares their soul to the other. But when Tina's letters suddenly cease, Anders is thrown into despair. Can this unlikely friendship survive?"
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