Published by Scribner on November 10th 2015
Genres: Literary Fiction, Memoir, Non-Fiction
A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker.
An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today. Beginning with the grandfather she never knew, the letters range from a missive to the beloved priest from her childhood to remembrances of former lovers to an homage to a firefighter she encountered to a heartfelt communication with the uncle of the infant daughter she adopted. Readers will be amazed by the depth and style of these letters, which reveal the complexity and power to be found in relationships both loving and fraught.
The thing about books written by celebrities, especially non-fiction stories about their lives, is you have a predisposed idea of who they are as people. This idea can culminate through various ways such as the characters they play in movies/shows or the various stories that gossip magazines publish about them. And while I always felt that Mary Louise-Parker was a fascinating person, Dear Mr. You only made this all the more apparent.
“I wrote about us while you were away in a notebook that eventually saw the end of us, but the last I wrote about that time was in ink; it was a hurried, angry scrawl reading: Time, that cold bastard, with its nearlys and untils. I think, what a shame. Time should weep for having spent me without you.”
It has to be said, but I did not expect Mary Louise-Parker to be as remarkable a writer as she clearly is. I recently stumbled upon an article where she talks about her top ten favorite books and over half of them were poetry collections, so it’s clear where her poetic quality comes from. I read the majority of this book out loud to myself, simply because I wanted to slow down my normally fast-paced reading to better appreciate this small but stunning story. Her eloquence is something to truly aspire to.
As the title suggests, this is a collection of letters to the men that have in some way shape or form had an impact on her life. There was the occasional letter that was a miss for me, like the obscure one she wrote to a goat named Gem, but the majority of her letters moved me to unforeseen levels of emotion. Her letters run the gamut of emotions. The letter to Oyster Picker, recounting her fathers final moments on this Earth brought me to tears. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but I sobbed quietly, reading her profound words and then going back to re-read certain passages even though it was well past my bedtime. But there were also laughs, my favorite being the letter to her Former Boyfriend where she describes him eating all the guacamole off her plate and seething with rage she calmly picked up a fork and stabbed him through the hand. I’m not doing it justice but it truly was hilarious; I’m still chuckling in remembrance as I write this.
Parker has led a most fascinating life, full of delightful people, and it was a real treat being granted this glimpse into her life. At the end of this collection she recollects how her father made her promise him she would always keep writing and I do hope that promise is fulfilled. It would be fantastic to see her recount her life again in letters, with a focus on the women instead. Bottom line, I do hope this isn’t the last we haven’t seen of Parker in the literary world.
“I love that sensation, when you think, this is too good, I’ll catch up with everyone else later. You just have to take in the truth of that expanse a few more seconds before it changes and becomes something else entirely, or before you do.”