Review: Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

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Review for “Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose” by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil (2014)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Dear Nobody was published after the 1999 death of the author, a girl named Mary Rose, who reportedly kept a 600+ page journal. This condensed version of her diaries chronicle roughly about 3 years of her life in harrowing detail as she struggles with low self esteem, drug addiction, sexual assaults, and living with cystic fibrosis. As a writer I was impressed with her ideas, the complicated pattern of her thoughts, the intricate way she expressed them. There’s not much of a narrative flow here, but that’s ok. I came into this fully expecting for Mary Rose to be happy one moment, and completely subdued in the next. Welcome to adolescence, folks…

With that said, this journal had a lot of extremely disturbing content. Mary Rose had a shitty home life, shitty parents, and no one to talk to about it. For 75% of the book, she’s either drunk or thinking about drinking, high or under the influence of some other drug. Her addiction is sad to watch. You watch her move from tragedy to tragedy in an increasing fog of drugs and alcohol and in the company of people (including her own family) who could have cared less about her. In between all of the drama she’s constantly in and out the hospital, fighting infections and just plain fighting for her life. You desperately want to hug her, to help her, to stop her from falling into an abyss. Whew.

I felt like the book was realistic, but I’m not quite sure if I believe that what’s presented here is exactly as she wrote it. The spelling is perfect, there’s no typos. Although the collaborators who put the book together claim that not a single word of text was changed, I have a hard time believing that it wasn’t touched by an editor in some form or another. If she was in the impaired mental state that she constantly refers to being in, I’m sure there’s a hiccup somewhere. But I’ll digress…

Anyway, do read this. This book is the Go Ask Alice for all of us who laughed and rolled our eyes 25 years ago at the end of that book and were still waiting for a real journal to happen out there. Look no further.

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