Book Review by Mary Jedlicka Humston
I finished Dear Mr. You one week after attending Mary-Louise Parker’s reading of her first book at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City (incidentally, the same venue where my daughter Liz and her husband Greg were married in 2010).
Does one need to hear Ms. Parker read or listen to her in-depth conversation and discussion with local actor Tim Budd in order to fully appreciate her book? Simply put, no, you don’t. But, how lucky for me to read the chapters she shared and to hear echoes of that familiar voice many of us have heard in films and on television. How lucky that I can picture her head bent, glasses on, as she read, among other chapters, from “Dear Orderly” and “Dear Blue.”
Even before Parker came to Iowa City for the reading, I saw reviews about Dear Mr. You in countless magazines, all filled with praises. So, I knew the premise of the book from the beginning. If this is the first time you’ve heard about it, let me fill you in.
Dear Mr. You is a book of letters. Ah, now you know why Mary and I were keen to read and review this book. All the letters are written to a variety of real and imagined males who, in some way, played a special part in her life. And, all the letters are addressed anonymously, although the ones “Dear Daddy” and “Dear Grandpa” are pretty easy to identify. Parker’s poetic voice is very evident in her prose. In fact, there are some phrases you might want to read over and savor, hovering just a bit before allowing their full meaning to settle. Other parts are raw, gritty, and gutsy in the re-telling. Ms. Parker’s memoir is, above all, honest and bold.
In all, there are 34 letters. Some center on sex, former lovers (some abusive), and her close-to-death hospitalization. And, yet, mixed among these serious topics are others laced with humor. Yes, humor. The Iowa City audience roared with laughter when Parker read certain lines.
This is a book that you can read slowly, chapter by chapter, like I did. Or, you can devour it in one sitting. You choose. Whatever way you decide, you will not be disappointed.
You can view more about Mary-Louise Parker’s book by clicking here.