“We know there exists a planet with four thousand different versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because bonafide poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies that laugh in their sleep; because we are roaming a universe that may be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside this construct of reality and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I don’t even know.”
Well, this was long overdue. I finished Dear Mr. You late last summer, when it was still warm enough to get lost in an audio-book and entranced myself with changing foliage, bird songs, soft breezes and the scent of curry fueling my neighborhood. Put simply, Dear Mr. You was that kind of book.
I started with the hardcover on an inter-library loan. I don’t remember what else I was reading. I think it was Nanowrimo season. I got about halfway. In the end, I was glad I ran out of time, because the audio version was so charming. The recording opens and closes with, I believe, an harmonica solo. I think that was done to put us in mind of Fried Green Tomatoes, which Parker had a starring role in.
Well, before I get off topic, let’s move on…
what worked for me
I’ve read that Parker has written magazine articles, but aside from this book, I haven’t tracked down anything else she’s published. Unless she’s just been a closeted writer all her life, I’m doubly surprised this was her debut book. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Basically, I’m saying the author has a stunning literary voice, a thoughtful but accessible vocabulary and a tangible sense of empathy. All in all, she has the voice of an author I want to read.
I don’t know how clearly her experiences would translate to most readers, but I found Parker’s experiences and the way she navigated them relateable. Bare in mind, I’m not an actress or a performer. But many figures in her life from mentors to boyfriends to family and friends put me in mind of figures I’ve encountered on my road through Bohemia. Like they say in esoteric and magical circles, “like attracts like.”
Parker managed to scrawl herself on the page as a well-rounded, dynamic character without coming across as conceited or arrogant. And even though she is the central character in this unfolding story, we have full access to a world of equally dynamic, real-seeming characters. For me, her book is unforgettable.
what didn’t work for me
Perhaps there were times I felt the narrative seemed shoe-horned to fit the format. For instance, during the final pages she “writes” to the ambiance driver who removed the body of her well-loved father. I felt the stories she had to relate to the driver would have been better addressed to her father, except we already had a chapter on him earlier. So maybe the order of messages and narratives could have been shifted around. Though, I feel it was right to end the memoir with some well-placed words on her father, yes.
Certain letters like “Dear Cerberus” fell outside the mold too. Not that mold-breaking is bad. But in the course of the rest of the memoir, it left the finished product feeling a bit uneven. These are relatively small complaints, and as a writer, I can see why she made these decisions.
What can I say? Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You exceeded my highest expectations. If you get the chance, and audio-books are your jam, listen to said audio version. Did I mention she reads it? Made the book more personal for me. I hope we see more of Parker in the literary world, I truly do.
This book earned a 4 star review on my Goodreads page.