The dedication in I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway, a memoir by Glendale-based writer Tracy McMillan, says most of it: “To my dad, who never let me go. And to my fourth husband — wherever you are.” But did we mention that McMillan’s charming, charismatic father was a pimp and a drug dealer who brought her with him everywhere “on business” — and that when she was just 3, her alcoholic mother (a prostitute) gave her up to foster care during her dad’s first prison term?
That’s the setup. The punch line is that this book is laugh-out-loud funny, wickedly observant and high-wattage smart. Every one of the 17 chapters starts with a paragraph or two so hilarious and profane that you are compelled to keep reading as you follow McMillan’s quest to understand why she is breaking up with husband No. 3 by the time she’s in her early 40s.
Her tale of an off-kilter but very American childhood (she lived in upscale Minneapolis neighborhoods and was a cheerleader; among her mothers were a Lutheran preacher’s wife and a manic-depressive good-time girl; she visits her fascinating father in federal prison and hopes she’s looking sharp, because he’s sure to comment if she isn’t; she goes through AA) is interwoven with the story of her impulsive third marriage and its sudden, inevitable implosion.
A successful TV writer, McMillan re-create scenes on the page so vividly that you are seeing, feeling and hearing it. You’ll experience her 10-year-old ecstasy when her father whisks her backstage at a Cher concert; you’re in her bedroom, in her head, and both bored and wryly amused in a minimum security prison that’s “really relaxed… it feels less like a place of punishment that it does, say, a Department of Motor Vehicles office. Except half the people are wearing prison uniforms.”