The next letter from Nettie arrives two months letter. Nettie has been writing Celie letters from a steamer ship; she is headed to Africa, with the Reverend and Corrine, as a missionary. But out of despair, Nettie destroys her letters, written on the boat, before sending; this new letter to Celie is her first in months, and contains some of the information from the ripped-up and undelivered letters.
This letter has an interesting structural quality: it is a compendium of the letters Nettie had written to Celie while on-board the ship, but which she tore up, out of frustration, before reaching land. In this way, letter 55 is in fact a reconstruction of other letters that were never delivered.
Nettie reports that she has taken the job as an assistant to Samuel and Corrine, and as a maid to Adam and Olivia, overseas in Africa. Nettie also reports that she saw a woman acting as maid to the mayor's wife, just before she left for Africa. Nettie was struck by how lifeless the maid looked, working for her white bosses. (Nettie does not know that this woman was Sofia.)
Another of the novel's coincidences. Nettie happened to see Sofia on the street, but of course does not know, at this point, that Sofia and Harpo or married, or the reason why this woman, Sofia, is acting as maid to a white family. But Nettie is astute enough to see Sofia's anguish at having to serve a white family.
Nettie says that, after she learned she would be going to Africa as a missionary, she read as much as she could about the continent and its people. She also reports that Samuel and Corrine believe Olivia and Adam have been sent to them by God. Only Nettie knows that Celie is their real mother—but Nettie derives comfort in knowing that she can serve as a loving aunt and caretaker to the children.
Nettie, whose education was always stronger than Celie's, since Celie got pregnant at a young age, takes advantage of her new living situation to learn as much as she can. It is implied that Samuel and Corrine are somewhat comfortable, financially, since these books would not be cheap or easy to come by.