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Dear Mr. You Hardcover – November 10, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of November 2015: More revealing than most memoirs, more satisfying than a diary, Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You is comprised of letters addressed to the men, both fictional and real, in her life. The letters, directed at the ‘you’ are unabated marvels of experience – at times gritty and unpolished, snappy and sad, romantic and heart pounding. There are the letters addressed to her daughter’s future boyfriend that release the snarl of a mother’s love; a raw apology to a cab driver who was the recipient of her rage; her mentor on the cusp of dying from AIDS with “that voice I could have poured on pancakes”; the beloved priest of her childhood answers the questions of her children; the lover who said “you would love me until you were ashes.” These moments, congested by the form of a letter, take on a level of unapologetic and unfettered intimacy that is intoxicating to read. Mary-Louise Parker is not just an award winning actress. She is a gutsy, bewitching writer whose stories will make you swoon, induce bawdy laughter, and puncture your deepest emotions. – Al Woodworth

Guest Review by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

Mary Louise Parker

Photograph by Tina Turnbow

“Dear Mr. You” comes as a revelation – actually, one revelation after another. Mary-Louise Parker’s book of memoiristic letters to some of the men in her life reads like a collection of first-rate short stories, varied in mood and tone but united by a perspective comprising gratitude, forgiveness, courage, and humor. Parker lives intensely and sees acutely; she has a warrior’s determination and a poet’s insight. I found myself reading this mesmerizing album of portraits like poetry, in fact: only a few letters at a sitting, the better to savor their resonances.

Parker recounts transforming episodes with some of her male heroes, among them a movement teacher, her acting mentor, the family priest (“who believed in God and still liked him”), the no-nonsense accountant who taught her how money works, the beekeeper next-door, and a former child soldier from Uganda. She depicts love affairs in all their ambivalence and fluctuating passions, and commemorates her most awful romantic relationships in an epistle to Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog at the maw of Hell. She speculates about the hard-drinking Grandpa she never knew, and relives the relinquishment of her father’s body after his death. He was a three-war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who punched holes in the wall, and she misses him too profoundly to convey: “It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean.”

Here is the worst imaginable encounter between a pregnant woman and a New York City cabdriver with no idea where he’s going, here, a wishful meditation for a newborn baby boy. Here, even a note of apology to NASA “for repeatedly stating that you were a massive misuse of tax dollars and basically an oversized playground for those who like to wear antigravity suits.” She then admits (as men so rarely do), “I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

Parker’s recollections evoke the very nature of memory, their potent images never too fully limned, never lingering over the emotions they incite. “Dear Mr. You” reminds us what a glorious business life can be even at its worst, if you can tug it into the right frame of view. It makes me hope that my young son might grow up to be the sort of fellow worthy of a letter from someone the caliber of Mary-Louise Parker. I cannot imagine anyone worth knowing who would not fall in love with the shimmering vision at the core of this masterful book.


“Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You is straight-up fantastic; a gripping and deeply humane and often hilarious book. It catches glimpses of life at all sorts of unexpected moments, electrifying them with its sharp-eyed astonishment at how absurd and joyous things can get. There’s nothing cheaply-earned about its wonder; nothing sugarcoated in its gratitude.It’s all grit, all messy particulars—full of surprise and full-throated in its song.” (Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams)

“To have an artist accomplished in one genre triumph in another—seemingly out of the blue—is an extraordinary event. Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You is a pants-pissingly funny, gut-wrenching meditation on her loving and tormented encounters with the masculine. From grandfather to father to son to the wacky, pre-Burning Man hippie with a loincloth who haunts her at a co-op job to the lover who deserves the coda ‘Sleep tight, little monster.’ Whether honoring the ash-covered firefighter she sees on 9/11 or shouting as a crazy person at her malignantly lost cabdriver, Parker merges memoir with poetry in this haunting, sui generis work. I drank it down in one gulp, then started back at page one again. A magnificent, necessary surprise.” (Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club and Lit)

"This book will shake your soul out. Funny, surprising, angry, intimate, political, saucy, profound, and very very tender indeed, this is a book that will pass from mother to daughter to father to son and back to mother again. A wonderful literary achievement." (Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin)

"In an industry that produces replicas, there is no one else quite like Mary-Louise Parker...Funny, heartbreaking, and profound." (Elle)

"Bruisingly honest." (Vogue)

"The book is written in a smart, beguiling voice that is inextricably entwined with qualities that Ms. Parker radiates as an actress. There’s as much flintiness as reckless charm. Flirtation and mischief are big parts of her arsenal. So is the honest soul-searching that gives this slight-looking book much more heft than might be expected....Its tone is brave and warmly conspiratorial, neither of which has ever hurt an already well-known, professionally adorable person when it comes to attracting readers. That Ms. Parker’s book is so seriously good seems like overkill." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

"Poetic and often hilarious." (Cosmopolitan)

"The most provocative memoir hitting shelves in the coming months." (Hollywood Reporter)

"Intimate and polished." (Associated Press)

"Memoir readers, storytellers and lovers, starving artists, letter writers, and dreamers will enjoy." (Library Journal)

"The farthest thing imaginable from a celebrity memoir...a portrait of a human life apart from the cycles of fame: private, flawed, strange, funny, polished and reflective." (BookPage)

"Yes, that Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds, Proof). Her debut memoir is couched as a series of letters--funny, heartbreaking, steamy, wise--to men who have touched her life: friends, family, lovers and total strangers....Parker doesn't name names or connect dots. What she does is provide a series of strobe-lit glimpses into an extraordinary life." (MORE)

"Parker's first book is unconventional, spirited, refreshingly honest, and painfully funny....Each letter proves Parker as a writer capable of inspiring depth and self-reflection. With Dear Mr. You, this accomplished actress can confidently add "slash writer" to her bio — and her fans should consider that addendum just as confidently." (Bustle)

"Parker stakes her claim as 'best literary writer' among contemporary celebrities with this fiction-memoir hybrid. The title refers to the book’s epistolary approach: it features a series of real and fiction letters sent to the men in her life. It’s often funny as hell." (Flavorwire)

"Parker's prose is infused with a perfect balance of sarcasm, humor and poetic language. Her letters shine with candid, self-aware depth--unabashed in revealing the truth of her own nature and experiences." (Shelf Awareness)

“Parker's missives move effortlessly among nostalgia, intensity, and playfulness, but in the end, they all work together to reveal both the small and large ways in which we impact each other. A unique, poised, and polished first book from a respected actress.” (Kirkus)

“A bold, powerful, and decidedly non-Hollywood exercise… Each letter paints a fuller picture of its author. . . . [Parker's] poet’s prose is lyrical, funny, sad, strange, and very often beautiful . . . Yes, she’s a writer, too.” (Booklist)

"Dear Mr. You boasts both innovative style and profound substance. . . . Parker’s writing is full of poetry, too, with lines as startling as breaking glass. . . . Flashing backward and forward in time, and into and out of all these lives, Dear Mr. You is really about finding the beauty, the humor — and the sorrows — in our lives and the lives of others, and being glad and grateful for all of it. So here is my letter: Dear Ms. Parker, Thank you for this dazzling collection." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"By turns fiercely intelligent and downright goofy, Parker is above all relentlessly self-critical, and often self-deprecating. Among the many things we learn she cannot do are juggle, manage money, and say no. What she can do is write. Many actors produce books, but few of these leave a reader wanting more;Parker is a formidably talented exception." (Boston Globe)

"Deeply funny and entirely original." (Vanity Fair)

"Lyrical, funny and passionate....she's a serious writer." (Newsday)

"The author's wit and passion shine through." (People)

"A colorful anthology of funny, lonely and poignant moments from one woman's life. Her biographical approach is extremely innovative. Parker takes a hard look at the men in her life in order to analyze their impact on the woman she is today. And that woman is complex, compassionate, loving and talented." (Associated Press)

"I am a memoir connoisseur. I teach the form. I read dozens upon dozens of 'true' stories every year, and only two or three stand out. Dear Mr. You stands out." (Chicago Tribune)

"Parker dives into complex topics that aren’t always easy to put to paper with humor and rich, full writing. She draws the readers in and will have them hooked until the final page. Dear Mr. You is a thrilling and brilliant début by an accomplished actor." (The Daily Iowan)

"Dear Ms. You...What could have been merely a trope or a trick becomes more than that by virtue of your sheer perspicacity, your willingness to wear your vulnerability on your sleeve, and some excellent, stylish writing. You can add to your resume, alongside outstanding actress, accomplished author." (NPR.org)

"Smart, funny, sad, entertaining, never boring. It is that rare thing in books written by bold-faced names: a very pleasant surprise. Put it another way: If no one knew who you were, this would still be a book worth reading." (The Daily Beast)

"That rarest of things: A celebrity actor’s memoir that briefly elevates the form with a literary approach and some real style." (Phoenix New Times)

"Parker writes with a poetic urgency and flighty grace that you’ve seen before in the characters she’s played. And the result is remarkably compelling." (Purewow.com)

"Mary-Louise Parker is a smart, smart woman who GETS LIFE. In Dear Mr. You, Parker puts together all the letters she’s written to the men in her life. Her grandfather, a priest, boyfriends. It’s all there. It’s dynamite." (HelloGiggles)

"Here in these pages, Parker is a woman blessed with social intelligence and great sensitivity to detail, who treasures genuine emotion over empty posturing and lives according to instinct and intuition." (The New York Times Book Review)

"Quite stunning...At times poetic, at times deeply funny, these missives strike the right balance between sentiment and fact, storytelling and musing." (The Toronto Star)

"Leave it to Mary-Louise Parker to remind us why we care about celebrity memoirs in the first place." (USA Today)

"Parker has written a book that deserves an audience even if its author were anonymous... Throughout her tone is celebratory but not gushing,and she’s nothing if not a shrewd judge of character and what warrants holding dear: the loving letters to her father could draw tears from a stone." (The Daily Beast)

"[Parker's] acting talent is undeniable—and so, it would appear, is her talent as a writer." (Dallas Morning News)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (November 10, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501107836
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501107832
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is not your typical celebrity memoir/essays--in the BEST possible way.

Mary-Louise Parker has written letters via her stream of consciousness to everyone from 3 men she dated that she refers to as Cerberus to NASA.

These are not the type of stories/essays you're used to where someone says I used to be a nerd and then tells you a story proving their nerd-status. Here MLP, in what feels like free flowing thought, takes one person, and speaks to them in a way that reveals so much more about herself and the human condition.

There were moments so beautiful and raw that they crawled under my skin and will forever live with me. Other times, out of the blue, I found myself laughing only to suddenly be surprised and find myself teary-eyed. The stories, content, and writing are surprisingly wonderful and before I'd even finished I knew this was a book I'd always want on my bookshelf.

*This is not for celebrity gossip fans looking for MLP to "dish dirt" on anyone.
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Format: Paperback
My what a delightful read. I adore her as an actress now a writer. She managed to explore her hidden talent and eloquently showcase it in this memoir. Who knew how chosen words were descriptively displayed to grasp your imaginative mind. Heartfelt and I finally figured it out, the book had a personality like the actress itself, huh? Two peas in a pod. I received a free book that I had won through Goodreads First Read Giveaway. Thank you, Darlene Cruz
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Format: Hardcover
It is as if this book is written in half poetry half prose....all beautiful. Wonderful collection of delightful vignettes, some dark, some decadent, some clear , some fuzzy, others sharp and sweet. The mixture of odd quirkiness, dark humor and her own strengths and weaknesses explored in such an elegant and origional format.........I couldn't put the book down. It is not a Hollywood memoir.....this is beauty, honor, strength and sadness in the most elegant of forms. Bravo xox
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I’m not one to read books written by celebrities, but I read a review of this memoir that intrigued me enough to give it a try. I was maybe ten pages in when I sat down and ordered five copies for gifts—my faith in its being a great book was that strong. As I continued to the finish, that view was momentarily tested here and there, but ultimately confirmed. Forget that this woman is a famous actress, forget that she’s the sexiest being on the planet, this woman is *deep.*

In *Dear Mr. You* Parker has written a series of pseudo-letters to particular men, most of them generically designated (“Dear Emergency Contact,” “Dear Yaqui Indian Boy,” “Dear Grandpa,” etc.), who have all been part of or influenced her life. The narrative is in the second person (the subjects are all addressed as “you”), which as it turns out is an elliptical but effective form of storytelling. This approach lends an offbeat perspective, in which the person addressed seems to know more about Parker than she does, while at the same time each letter is equally revealing about both of them. I call the book a memoir, but it defies categorization—feels like fiction, structured like essay. Really it’s just one soul speaking directly to others, with us peering over their shoulders.

The writing is simultaneously casual and sophisticated. Offhand sentences thrust you into the heart of life. Tiny telling moments echo with the particular and the universal. Few words are ever wasted. Parker has a fine ear for dialogue and a good grasp of idea, and all of this gets thrown at the page in a way that seems hasty but is really cunning.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've always loved and admired Mary Louise Parker as an actress and to discover that she's an amazing writer was an absolute delight. She's honest, real and unafraid to be who she is. A quality I aspire to. I look forward to discovering more of her writings.
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Format: Hardcover
What you have here is an author with a very distinctive, stream-of-consciousness writing style. Through a series of imaginary letters she writes to key people from her past, Parker releases (spits out, really) all the thoughts she had around particular events or experiences. Mentors, boyfriends, even emergency medical personnel and her own daughter's future partner are included.

I liked her use of language and the way in which she was able to immerse me into the moment. And initially, I found this approach interesting and the reminiscences absorbing. But the farther I read, the more self-indulgent and affected the whole thing felt and the less interested I was in reading more. Kinda makes me wonder if she could have gotten it published if she weren't a well known actor.
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Format: Hardcover
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.

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).
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