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Dear Mr. You


Dear Mr. You

I have to be honest: I have many reservations regarding artists who are successful in one particular genre, then feel the need to show off their celebrity and engage in another format that would be considered a stretch for them. I shouldn’t; sometimes the result is good, necessary even, a companion piece to some important conversation or public discussion.

DEAR MR. YOU is not that. But Mary-Louise Parker, the tempestuous actress of stage and screen, has found an interesting method of creating a memoir onto which readers can position their own experiences. Who hasn’t yelled at a lost cab driver on the worst of all our worst nights, or considered what we would say to the humans who would eventually capture the hearts of our children, grown and looking to start their own lives of passion? Parker takes these characters, as well as lovers, friends and hangers-on who have made an impression on her and her family’s life, most notably her father and her children, who are sacrosanct to her. In a series of letters to a variety of men in her life, she reveals more about her inner life than in any part she has ever played in public.

"Parker is clearly an actor with innate talent, and her writing reflects a thoughtful and intelligent brain to go with the attractive exterior."

There are comic moments --- some high, some low --- and drama of an all-American order, including teen drama, mother drama, family drama, and just plain drama. The letters range from remembrances of her life past, as a wild teen, a super fangirl of some unnamed rock star who made a true and exacting imprint in the skin of her growing up, to a note of warning and congratulations to the remarkable man her daughter will end up with (although she doesn’t skimp on memories of gay friends and mentors, she assumes, perhaps rightly so, that her middle schooler is straight). Nonetheless, the variety and specificity of her memories and experiences with this interesting array of male humans show her to have an astute sense of humor, a preening sense of her own sexual power and a strong allegiance to people who have proven themselves to be good and true to her, especially her own father, about whose death she writes movingly and expertly.

There is no doubt that to be an actor of any note, he or she must exhibit an ability to crawl inside the soul of another human being and perceive the world from this inside-out stance. Parker does that here, utilizing a well-educated lexicon as well as a conversational tone that makes you feel as if you are spending the day with somebody who had a little too much to drink and decided to tell you everything you ever wanted (or did not want) to know about them. Her stories all have a nice touch of irony and whimsy. That hushed sense of otherwise high emotion that you encounter at college parties. The pretty girl with a soul. Parker knows how to play that role well and expresses some interesting takes on human behavior from that vaulted perch.

My favorite letter is the one she writes about almost dying and the doctor who saved her life. There are some serious pieces about the fragility of life here, and it is in those moments, when you can’t be cute or seductive, that the real quality of her writing is unleashed. The immediacy and fear of the situation, and the sense of renewed interest in the wonder of the world around her, feel so authentic and piercing in these pieces that they pale some of the lighter ones, like the rock star fawning.

Parker is clearly an actor with innate talent, and her writing reflects a thoughtful and intelligent brain to go with the attractive exterior. DEAR MR. YOU is filled with unique takes on everyday passages in all lives, and it brings a sense of camaraderie with the writer that most celebrity tomes do not. It is an easy and engaging read, perfect for holiday gift-giving. “That’s the hand of God there, touching you,” she relates someone saying to her in one letter. And so each letter holds a little something recognizable in all of us.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 12, 2015

Dear Mr. You
by Mary-Louise Parker

  • Publication Date: June 14, 2016
  • Genres: Letters, Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1501107844
  • ISBN-13: 9781501107849