I must admit, when Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You landed on my desk, I groaned audibly. Yet another actor with literary aspirations? Sure, I loved the talented actress’ work in Weeds and other projects, but over the years, I’ve seen far too many mediocre and unnecessary memoirs from entertainers to harbor any hopes for Parker’s book. 

So I was pleasantly surprised by this “collection of never-sent literary missives to the men who have most influenced her personal development.” Each piece is brief, but their collective impact is deeply felt. Among the subjects of her penetrating gaze are family members, teachers, mentors, lovers, friends, and even an unnamed New York City cab driver who unwittingly became the recipient of Parker’s wrath during a particularly bad day The author, wrote our reviewer, “moves effortlessly among nParke_Jacketostalgia, intensity, and playfulness, but in the end, [the pieces] all work together to reveal both the small and large ways in which we impact each other.” 

Her candidness and poise is evident throughout, whether she is providing a pointed assessment of her teenage self—“No one wants to hear about the congenital melancholy that gnaws at the soul of a teenaged girl, and there was no one for me to tell. Skulking through life as a loser was oddly shaming, though, and has continued to trail me through realities that flat out contradicted it”—or critiquing the social landscape in which she was raised: “In the overly white community where I lived, all was murderously medium. It was hard to locate yourself there, where everything was a moderate version of something that didn’t dare reach too far up or dip beneath the middle. 

These types of sharp appraisals pepper this unique memoir from an actress who proves herself to be a thoughtful, even meditative writer.

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.