Letters can give fiction or nonfiction a sense of intimacy that’s otherwise hard to achieve. In Indieland, many memoirs and biographies use epistolary content to good, detailed effect, providing a time-capsule–esque immediacy. 

The Quiet Tides of Bordeaux is the biography of Micheline Hébert. Born in 1916 France, she worked as a teacher when the Germans invaded in 1940. Author J.L.F. Lambert includes Hébert’s letters, as well as photographs and drawings of various sites in Bordeaux, throughout the work. “The mixed media, along with the blurred line between biography and literary novel, brings to mind the writings of W.G. Sebald,” said our reviewer. 

A father writes to his dead son in an attempt to find a posthumous reconciliation with him in Dear Jeff, an intimate, affecting collection of letters that may resonate with readers of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Author Kerry Gough worked as a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi in 1965. At the end of the ’60s, Gough, who is white, adopted two African-American fraternal twins. Jeff was physically and emotionally abused before the adoption, and he lived a troubled and short life. Our review notes the book’s multiple strengths: “While more broadly exploring the bonds and strains of interracial adoptive parenthood, the brave, cathartic writing also offers a window to street-level racial tensions during the civil rights movement.” 

In Encountering God, author Mark A. Johnson uses his parents’ letters to animate their courtship and marriage. The author provides “a look into the life of two western farming communities in the late 1930s as seen through the eyes of two evangelical Swedish-Lutherans.” Our reviewer, noting that the premise might sound less than page-turning, said that Johnson creates “a quietly captivating picture of two deeply religious people gradually learning about each other.” 

Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor.