Mary Pauline Lowry
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover (also available as an e-book, on Audible, and on audio CD), 978-1-9821-2143-3, 320 pgs., $26
April 7, 2020
“You want the power? Take it.”
Twenty-something Roxy lives in Austin, Texas, with a defunct love life and a low-paying job as a deli maid at the original Whole Foods. She is an educated artist, but her creativity died on the vine after a bitter breakup with Brant Bitterbrush. To make matters worse, a chain clothing store, Lululemon, has taken over a corner that once belonged to a local business. Roxy is furious at the injustice of gentrification, and she vows to take that store down. To add to her misfortune, the meth addicts next door are causing her grief and bringing down the value of her home with their constant partying and van/meth lab parked out front.
The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry is a quirky, raunchy, and slapstick epistolary novel that will make you cringe at the crude language and laugh at Roxy’s capers and bad luck. This series of letters to her roommate/ex-boyfriend Everett is a fascinating, one-sided conversation that eventually becomes more like a private journal.
With everything going wrong in Roxy’s life, it is hard to believe The Roxy Letters could be anything but morose. Fortunately, the author keeps the hilarity at a maximum level while still injecting some serious themes amidst the crazy escapades, flagrant characters, and amusing dialog, all retold in the letters. Mental illness and discrimination are a couple of underlying issues presented that the author artfully weaves in and builds to resolution. Friendship also plays a huge role throughout, with Roxy finding courage to improve her lot through her relationships with her coworker Annie; her newfound friend, Artemis; and believe it or not, her ex-boyfriend, Everett.
The author ingeniously—albeit conveniently—gives Roxy a legitimate reason for leaving Everett letters, which she eventually starts to hide away instead of leaving for him to find. Everett has no phone and is apparently never at home, resulting in the detailed letters that become a cathartic outlet rather than a means of communication.
Roxy’s rocky path does lead to some success, but she must first come to terms with her past and her stagnating artistic talents. Lowry endows Roxy with an off-balanced load of spunk and low self-esteem, giving this girl a slightly neurotic, self-centered persona that is both endearing and infuriating. Liking Roxy can be difficult because she is often portrayed as a whiny sad sack.
The Roxy Letters is not for the easily scandalized because Roxy does not hold back in her attempts to improve her love life and find the man of her dreams. Sorting out her love life dominates her letters to Everett, but the antics, wrong turns, climactic protest rally, and desperate attempt to earn money through drug therapy are what make this unusual novel so sexy and fun.
The author’s writing is clever and witty, and the story moves quickly toward an ending that seems too good to be true, leaving the reader waiting for the other shoe to drop—Roxy is a magnet for disaster, after all. Every letter is full of pranks and bawdy shenanigans that quickly escalate into all-out war against everything standing in Roxy’s way of reclaiming her artistic talent, gaining a more lucrative job, and finally finding true love and sexual healing. The Roxy Letters is perfect for anyone who loves a provocative, spirited tale that is nothing short of outrageous.
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Mary Pauline Lowry is the author of the novel The Roxy Letters, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in April 2020. She has an MA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Texas and an MFA in Creative Writing from Boise State University. She’s also the author of the novel Wildfire and is a regular contributor to O Magazine. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Millions, and other publications.