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The Roxy Letters

Review

The Roxy Letters

Written entirely in letters, Mary Pauline Lowry’s THE ROXY LETTERS is a humorous, deliciously messy look at the life of Roxy, a lovelorn activist who is ready for her life to begin --- whether the world is ready for her or not.

When we meet the titular Roxy, she has just made a huge decision by allowing her feckless ex-boyfriend, Everett, to rent her spare bedroom. She begins his rental period by writing him a letter of ground rules, namely that he must accept that they will never again enter a romantic relationship and that he must get a job. Though Roxy’s first letter is mostly a list of do’s and don’ts, Lowry manages to reveal a lot about her personality in only a few pages: she is a bit kooky, a little self-centered and very, very stuck.

"...a humorous, deliciously messy look at the life of Roxy, a lovelorn activist who is ready for her life to begin --- whether the world is ready for her or not."

As Roxy continues to leave letters for the hapless, still somehow mostly unemployed Everett, we learn a lot about her. She is envious of her college girlfriends, who have all ascended to office jobs and quiet stability, but she still has the soul of an artist --- despite the fact that her last major breakup stunted her will to create. She is also an avid vegetarian and an activist dead set on making sure that her beloved town of Austin, Texas, does not become gentrified. She works at Whole Foods and has just watched her best friend get promoted to the seemingly mythological fifth floor, and she is starting to worry that she will never realize her full --- or even her half --- potential. In sum, she is an every millennial: full of dreams and ambitions, morals and campaigns, yet is completely frozen in place and, with the reemergence of Everett into her life, possibly regressing.

When a new Lululemon --- a brand, in Roxy’s own words, “destined to sell overpriced workout gear to trophy wives whose sole job is to attend Pure Barre and keep it tight” --- opens in a local spot previously occupied by her favorite video rental store, she becomes incensed and, with the help of a new friend, decides to finally take control of her life. At the same time, her letters to Everett become less about his sloppiness and flaws as a renter and more about the ins and outs of her life --- from her failed flirtations with a sexy coworker, to her insecurities about making new friends, and even about how she looks in her new godforsaken Lululemons. And reader, it is a trip.

Because the book is composed entirely in letters, there is a lot of “telling, not showing,” which normally would render a novel a complete fail. Yet Lowry exceeds at giving her readers just enough nuance and depth to create a fully realized portrait of Roxy, even when she is not entirely honest in her correspondences. Roxy is equal parts funny and irritating, and you will laugh just as frequently at you will roll your eyes at her. But she is definitely unique, and THE ROXY LETTERS is an intriguing addition to the realm of 20-something literature that will appeal to millennials and older readers alike.

What makes it shine is Roxy’s wit and sense of humor. She compares the surge of Starbucks stores to the “spread of an STD in a nursing home,” and her often ridiculous and sometimes desperate reminders to Everett not to fall in love with her read like a teenager’s diary, in all of the best, cringeworthy ways. Roxy is her own worst enemy, and Lowry excels at highlighting not only the best parts of her, but how she often stands in the way of her own success, all without judgment or rebuke.

That said, I can see how Roxy could be grating on many readers, and I, too, found her unbearably vapid at times. Whenever she announces a new cause --- veganism, anti-corporatism, etc. --- she immediately underscores her own enthusiasm by journeying into the dark side and eating a wheel of cheese or rocking a new pair of Lululemons. Still, I found it impossible to break away from her and her letters. Roxy is the worst in all of us: worried about the future of consumerism, yet desperate to receive our Amazon Prime purchases in exactly two days; critical of the corporatization of beloved chains and yet unwilling to shop elsewhere, fearing the loss of convenience.

Roxy is not the lovable Bridget Jones or the controversial Bernadette of WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE. She is entirely original and completely in ownership of her own flaws and shortcomings, which may deter some readers for being just a little too real. In exposing her protagonist so clearly on the page, Lowry has given us someone to love and to hate, a plethora of witty new phrases to use, and, above all, a laugh-out-loud trek into the mind of a millennial everywoman (who looks amazing in a pair of Lululemons).

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on May 22, 2020

The Roxy Letters
by Mary Pauline Lowry

  • Publication Date: April 7, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982121432
  • ISBN-13: 9781982121433