In 1997, Caitlin Stoicsitz’sseventh grade teacher wrote a list of countries on the blackboard and asked her students to pick one for an assignment. That assignment? To write a letter to a student in the chosen country, with the goal of exposing both students to a new culture and a new way of life.
Caitlin chose Zimbabwe, intrigued by its exotic-sounding name, and having no idea how the simple idea would change her life forever. On the other side of the world, Martin was sitting in his classroom in his impoverished African school. Only a few students in his class would be receiving pen-pal letters, but because Martin had always worked so hard and was at the top of his class, he received a letter; Caitlin’s letter to be more specific. After a few letters, everyone else in Caitlin’s class stopped writing. But Caitlin and Martin wrote each other letters for over six years and learning more about each other’s culture, economic and social standings, and the opportunities America had to offer, as well as the hardships families, had to face in Zimbabwe. Through their unique connection, Caitlin and Martin became better, changed people, and I Will Always Write Back tells their true, incredible story.
Caitlin and Martin’s Connection
In the six years that Martin and Caitlin wrote letters to each other, they formed a special, unbreakable connection that changed both of their lives for the better. In the first few letters, the two wrote about surface-level things-their family members, their friends, their favorite school subjects, and hobbies and interests. But as their relationships, their friendship, progressed, they began to delve into deeper issues-into Caitlin’s toxic friendships, into her and Martin’s plans for the future, and the difficult life Martin must endure to even have a chance at making his dreams come true. Slowly, Caitlin begins to realize that outside her upscale life in Pennsylvania, many people are struggling, and one of those people is Martin. She learns to be more generous and caring about others, and begins to use her own money to send things to Martin that he and his family desperately need, such as food, money, tents, clothing, and more. She and her family even pay for Martin to attend a special school, which helps him get into college in the United States. Martin’s genuine interest in Caitlin’s life and her future, as well as his kindness even through his difficult life. The two eventually meet at the end of the book, and their connection and friendship that spanned so many years and so many thousands of miles were inspirational.
Amazing Life Lessons
I Will Always Write Back is interesting, entertaining, and well-written, but one of the best things about it is the amazing life lessons it promotes and allows readers to learn. A message concerning how two incredibly different people can become great friends is at the forefront of the story. Caitlin and Martin live in the United States and Zimbabwe, respectively, and come from entirely different economic backgrounds. Caitlin lives in a large home, with multiple cars and parents who can afford to buy her whatever she wants. Martin lives in a tiny house in poverty with his many siblings and his father whose job is always in jeopardy. They have almost nothing, and many nights can’t even afford to eat. Despite their incredible differences, Martin and Caitlin grow close and form a strong bond. Generosity and kindness is another life lesson I Will Always Write Back teaches; Caitlin and her family send money to Martin and fight for him so that he can make his dreams come true and get him a better education. The book shows that no matter how wealthy a person is, they should still stay humble and give to those who aren’t as well-off as they are. Martin’s life shows that even those who are living in poverty can rise above and beat the odds, especially with help from others. The entire book encourages kindness and looking beyond prejudice and preconceived views.
I Will Always Write Back reminds readers of the inspiring friendships that can be formed, as well as what is really important in life. I Will Always Write Back is co-written by both Martin and Caitlin, which allows readers to see both sides of their lives and how the letters impacted them both. The nonfiction story is highly recommended for young adults and adults alike.