A Book You Must Read (or Hear)

Credit: Audible.com

If we’ve been friends for an hour or more, you know that I love reading. Chances are pretty good that we’ve been to a bookstore together, or we’ve talked about going to a bookstore together, or we’ve exchanged books, or I’ve borrowed a book that I’ve never given back. (Sorry about that.) And if we’ve talked about books in the last year, I’ve rambled on for far too long about why Audible.com is one of my favorite ways to “read” lately. I know that multitasking isn’t en vogue any more, but I still want to be able to listen to a book when I walk around Baltimore or run through the airport between flights. Audible is also great for long car rides or for keeping you company in your 500-square foot apartment during a blizzard while your husband lives in Wisconsin. Oh, that’s just me. Right. Maybe you can just listen to books while you do the dishes or fold the laundry.

Anyway, that brings me to the primary point of this post. Stop whatever you’re doing right now and download a copy of Mary-Louise Parker’s new book Dear Mr. You.

I’m not sure if you remember Mary-Louise Parker, but you’ve likely seen a few movies or shows that she’s totally killed it in, including Fried Green Tomatoes, The Client, and Portrait of a Lady. When she played Amy Gardner in The West Wing series, I developed a full-blown woman crush on her. I’ve not seen Weeds, but I might take that on right after I reread Dear Mr. You in hardback.

Honestly, I had no idea that Mary-Louse Parker was a writer, but she won me over after listening to Dear Mr. You. If you’re reading this, we’re likely friends or related (hi, mom), which means you’re bound to hear me talk about this book at some point. Consider this fair warning.

Dear Mr. You is a collection of essays written as letters to people in Parker’s past and some letters to people she doesn’t yet know, like the man who will one day love her daughter. Strung together they form a memoir of sorts made up of the critical moments in Parker’s life. They are deeply personal and revealing, like the kinds of conversations you’d have with only your best friend or your diary.

Parker’s prose is also rich and textured, oozing of the imagery and poetry of a woman who has lived a full life of joys and heartbreaks. It is clear from her words that she is immersed in the emotional lives of those around her, even strangers. In some letters, Parker revisits interactions she had with strangers at the lowest points of her life and tries to bring a new level of compassion to the memory for herself and those around her. But it isn’t all heartbreak. Parker also writes about romantic love, her love for her children, and for her friends.

What makes Dear Mr. You such an enthralling read is her raw vulnerability. Parker’s audiobook is even more rich because her voice carries the stories with the pacing, tenor, and emotion she used in writing each piece. Listening feels more like attending a small reading in a gallery or independent book shop than a well-produced product (even though it is that too).

I’ve listened to a lot of memoirs in the last year and they are all very different, but they’ve all been by women. Maybe part of my book selection is just the suggested book algorithms of Audible and Amazon, but I think it is also about my desire to read more work by intelligent, complex women. If anyone is interested, I’d be happy to make more recommendations. Maybe I’ll even post a few more here.

Happy downloading or Amazon shopping. Remember to support your local bookstore.


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