Friday, March 11, 2016

Dear Mr. You - A Review

I think there are books that deserve a blog entry all to themselves.  Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker is one of them.

I should begin by saying that I’m not a fan of Mary-Louise Parker.  When I say “I’m not a fan,” that doesn’t mean I dislike her or her work, but rather I don’t know much about her.  I know who she is, for in my mind’s eye she will forever be Ruth Jamison in the 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes.  I know that she starred in the Showtime series, Weeds, and I saw her on a couple episode of The Blacklist, but that’s honestly the extent of my knowledge of her career (I didn't even know she had won an Emmy...).  In terms of her personal life, before Dear Mr. You, I know absolutely nothing.  Nothing.

What then, you may ask, drew me to read her memoir?  How did Dear Mr. You even appear on my radar?  Well, it was a simple, yet glowing, New York Times review that used words like “ingenious,” “enchanting,” and “deeply intimate.”  The review likened her literary debut to that of a one-woman show.  With praise like that, how could my curiosity not be piqued?

Dear Mr. You is not your typical Hollywood celebrity memoir.  There is no A-list name dropping.  There is no self gratuitous recounting of her fabulous, “look at me, look at me” celebrity life.  There are no anecdotes about her time on the sets of Weeds, The West Wing, or Angles in America.  If I didn’t know that she was a successful actress with a long career, I never would have gathered that from this book.  It's a memoir like no other and truly deserves that accolades that it received in that New York Times review.

Instead of a simply recalling of her life in a typical, conventional fashion, she shares glimpses of her life through thirty-four finely crafted “letters” penned to men who have, in one way or another, impacted her life.  Some of the men are adults and some are boys.  Some are real, some are hypothetical.  Some she's never met.  Through these letters, Parker chronicles some significant events of her life, not as an actress, but as a human being and how those events shaped her.  She shares not only happy moments, but also the sad and the deeply personal, tragic moments as well.  I would love to go into detail about the chapters, but I do not wish to give any spoilers away.  Notable chapters that made big impressions on me include:  “Dear Cerberus,” “Dear Orderly,” “Dear Uncle,” “Dear Future Man Who Loves My Daughter,” and “Dear Oyster Picker.”

Ms. Parker’s writing is rich in detail.  It is intelligent an evocative.  Her language is vivid and fluid.  Sometimes I felt lost in the words, so consumed by the story that I completely forgot who the letter was written to.  Regardless of the story that unfolded in each letter, everything was either directly or indirectly related back to the recipient of that specific letter.  The power of Dear Mr. You is that it emphasizes the significance of relationships and interactions, regardless of how fleeting or long term.

I listened to Dear Mr. You on audiobook and it was narrated by Ms. Parker.  Listening to her read her own work was very entertaining and enjoyable.  If you regularly listen to audiobooks or are “audiobook curious,” I would highly recommend listening to it.  Mary-Louise Parker’s intonation and inflection adds depth and a personal emotion to the experience that I'm not certain is possible if only reading it.

Dear Mr. You is a relatively short book, coming in at 240 pages in print format and under 6 hours in audio.  I can typically finish a book of this length in two days with a leisurely pace; one if I have an entire day to myself with nothing competing for my attention.  Despite the short length, I discovered that I had difficulty multitasking while listening to this book, a problem I don’t usually encounter.  One evening, as I rewound back to the beginning of the chapter I just finished to listen to it again, it occurred to me.  Dear Mr. You is a book that is meant to be savored, that is meant to have its words re-read or re-listened to a second time.  It is a book that needs time to be absorbed and then reflected upon.  It was one of the most impactful memoirs that I've read.  I made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.  

My rating: ★★★★/★★★★★ (4.5)

Have you read Dear Mr. You?  If so, what did you think about it?  As always, thanks for stopping by!


  1. I had heard about it, meant to read it, then forgot about it. Off to request it from the library... thanks for the review and reminding me to read it! :)

  2. I'm intrigued. Not typically the type of book I'd read, but I do enjoy her and your words about it entice me as well so I might attempt this one!

  3. 240 is short? How long are the books you usually read?

    1. Well... I mainly listen to audiobooks since I have a 1.5-2 hour daily commute. On average, most of the books I listen to are 8-12 hours long, which typically equates to 275-450 pages. There are many variables that affect this, such as narrator pacing and font size on pages, but that's just a range. The book I read before this one (Six Days of the Condor) was 256 pages (6 hrs. on audio) and the book before that one (Hidden Bodies) was 448 pages (13 hrs.). The longest book I have listened to is Outlander which comes in at a staggering 850 pages (33 hrs)!

  4. I may have to check that audio out - that would be a good one to get through in a week at work :)

  5. i am definitely intrigued! i am not a fan either, but the same way you are, i don't hate her or anything. i'll check it out!

  6. What a fascinating way to write a "book". I can think of letters I'd write...


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