“We all miss you something fierce, those of us who wouldn’t exist had you not kept walking when an ordinary person would have fallen to his knees. To convey in any existing language how I miss you isn’t possible. It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean.” The author pretty much had me right here, as she pays tribute to her father on page 14 of the book’s introduction. The poetry and prose only soar from this point. Memoir, meditation, group chat… all are terms one could use to quantify the actress Mary-Louis Parker’s utterly original book of letters to the men who have come and gone and will one day enter her complicated life. Simply titled, Dear Mr. You, the chapters’ order weaves seamlessly minus any great orchestration – as if you’ve uncovered a stashed shoe box of correspondence. Any quest to “solve” matters is swiftly quieted by the content’s raw recall of heartbreak and happiness. And with the unconventional, refreshingly honest and smart delivery that is her trademark, recall she does.
The highly regarded writer and literally critic Alfred Kazin once advised, “Never try to achieve ‘order’, sacrifice symmetry – seek to relate all these antagonistic forces, not to let the elimination of one to the other.” Ms. Parker rather masterfully uses the pages of Dear Mr. You to do just that. From letters to long departed boyfriends of varying character, to her childhood priest to her “emergency contact” in the throes of a brush with death, she extends equal weight to the order and chaos, the loss and life that has checkered her journey. One particularly heartfelt illustration of this comes in the chapter entitled, Dear Orderly. She pens this letter (in a fragile emotional state) to the hospital worker who attempted to care for her newborn son William on the evening of his birth – a bittersweet solo event. In resisting the orderly’s offer to ferry the newborn to the nursery for the evening she serves up her heart and soul as she gazes upon this new life for whom she is responsible – her “best job ever”. To the gentleman’s insistence, she responds… “Look at him there, would you? I mean have you ever? I almost can’t believe it. He’s my ever and after. Sorry, sir. It may be the very best choice, but no, you may not have this baby tonight. He is my job now, the best one I’ve ever had, by a zillion, and I will be doing this one until I drop… I haven’t heard it yet. The sound that will make me happy to have been born, the sound I will draw on when I can’t breathe or think straight, when I lose or fail, the sound of a small voice looking for me, or looking to be sure of me when I am right there, the sound of… mommy?” Repeatedly, the Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe award-winning actress snatches your breath and pierces your heart with such rich lyric.
It’s hard to imagine an adult reader to whom Dear Mr. You would not appeal. It spans forward and back through the arc of a life mirroring our shared humanity. Don’t come looking for gossip or dirt or payback with this title. You won’t find it among its pages. What you will meet is an incredibly gifted artist naturally extending herself in print in acknowledgment of male figures who have dazzled, disappointed and shaped her canvas. The book is incredibly original in its structure and a burst of fresh air in its full abandon.