Booklist Starred Review of Marcel’s Letters
Issue: May 15, 2017
Although Porter found the letters, perhaps they also found her. So she is told more than once by those who hear her improbable tale of a chance discovery that would consume more than a decade of her life. Porter, a graphic designer, was drawn to the handwritten letters in an antique store for their beautiful script, without understanding a word of the French writing. After years of arduous work designing a font based on those letters, in a fit of curiosity she had one of them translated. That first letter, sent from Berlin during WWII, contained a father’s tender words to his young daughters, along with perplexing references to clothes that needed mending and his inability to buy a comb. It started Porter on a quest to find out what happened to its author, a man named Marcel. Porter’s captivating memoir describes her journey to find answers, noting how her fascination with Marcel proved infectious as she faces obstacle after obstacle and enlists the help of experts to discover the fate that awaited him. She learns about a program that brought millions of workers to Germany to feed the war machine, the wretched conditions they faced, and how difficult it was to survive. As impressive as her detective work is, it is Marcel and his letters—real, honest, heartfelt, and brave—that are undoubtedly the star of this marvelous book.
— Bridget Thoreson