Dear Prudence: Liberating Lessons from’s Beloved Advice Column

HarperOne. Apr. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780063140363. $26.99. SELF-HELP
Lavery (Something That May Shock and Discredit You) presents an annotated collection of memorable, interesting, and sometimes offbeat letters from his six-year tenure as Slate’s advice columnist, “Dear Prudence.” Lavery describes the appeal of “Dear Prudence” as “speculative conflict resolution”—the ability to be a fly on the wall observing someone else’s problem rather than having to deal with the problem. Over the course of 12 topically arranged chapters, Lavery shares everything from the quotidian (partners with differing feelings about marriage or children; workplace woes) to the jaw-dropping (someone who wants to steal some of her ex-boyfriend’s ashes from his family as part of her grieving process). Much of the advice boils down to communication, whether it’s making one’s needs known, sharing a perspective, or being honest instead of being a people-pleaser, and Lavery’s straightforward, respectful dispensing of advice often comes with a dose of dry humor. Some of the most insightful letters regard issues with which Lavery has extensive personal experience—he dispenses particularly sage advice regarding gender transition and family estrangement.
VERDICT Fans of “Dear Prudence” (or advice columns in general) will appreciate this well-curated retrospective, which is elevated by Lavery’s thoughtful annotations, reminiscences, and insights.
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