I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
Authors: Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Narrators: Chukwudi Iwuji, Emily Bauer
Run Time: 8hrs 52min
Audiobook Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Audiobook Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio
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.
I’ll admit that many times when it comes to reading/listening to memoirs, I end up coming away under-enthused about the subjects, because there always seems to be something fake about them (even if that is not entirely the case). However, when I was browsing the recent audiobook release offerings from Hachette, this YA memoir caught my eye and I am beyond glad that I requested it. Not only because the audiobook was nothing short of amazing, but because there seemed to be an honesty in the writing of both Caitlin and Martin. But let’s back up…
I grew up around the same time period as Caitlin and Martin (they are a couple of years younger than me), but I think for me when listening, it helped to establish a commonality between what they were talking about and somehow I had experienced it. I remember signing up for pen pal programs in school, although my experiences tended to be more like Caitlin’s classmates – one or two letters and then it kind of dwindled off – compared to the friendship that Caitlin and Martin developed over the years. Its kind of sad knowing that in the technological age that kids grow up in today, that joy of waiting for letters from some mysterious place overseas is something many likely won’t experience. Nowadays, we shoot off an email and it miraculously appears in someone else’s inbox on the other side of the world, the country or even next door. I love to see people take the time to write letters (and wonder if there are still organizations that do penpal exchanges out there…).
Its hard to say that I loved how the differences in Caitlin and Martin’s lives were portrayed, because you couldn’t help but get emotionally involved in Martin’s story – him and his family struggling for food, the type of house that they live in (if you could call it a house) and ultimately, how little it took to get them much needed supplies. And that Caitlin and her family just stepped up and did that because of the friendship between the two of them (actually, amend that, they are family), shows what a difference that little bit extra can be. How the actions of one person can literally save a life, or lives. I wonder if Caitlin hasn’t picked Zimbabwe from the list of countries, what if she had gone with France or Spain, or one of the more common countries…its mind-boggling to me how that one tiny decision had some many ramifications over the years.
I don’t know if the audiobook producers could have selected two narrators who were better suited to this project than Chukwudi Iwuji and Emily Bauer. Emily pegged the narration for an American teenager from the East Coast, down to the bratty-ness that I kind of expected at times; along with a touch of self-centered ness – seeing Caitlin transition from that I’m the center of the world, to wow, there is so much out there that I don’t know/understand was for me one of the best parts of the book. While I’m only had limited opportunities to interact with individuals from Africa, Chukwudi is how I visualized Martin sounding – that way of speaking with the very proper/formal English, compared to the more relaxed form that you hear elsewhere. For me, the audiobook just took what was already a good book and made it a great book.
I think this book (either reading or audio) would be a great addition to school classrooms when it comes to studying other countries (do they still do that?) and I’m going to recommend it to my local library to buy if they haven’t already. I’m intrigued enough to see if i can find any similar books (either fiction or non-fiction). I gave the book 4 stars and the narration 5 stars.