In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.
According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”
“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”
Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?
I mean, just look at that cover. A shiny, manically-posed raccoon. The book totally lives up to the cover – a little mad, a little odd, quite a bit humorous.
I hadn’t read anything by Jenny Lawson before, although I had seen reviews of her first book floating around the blogosphere. And I’m glad I picked it up. This isn’t a book you can devour in one setting – at least that’s what I found – because after a while, the style of writing can get on your nerves a bit. It’s better to settle down with a few chapters at a time.
And while it’s not laugh-out-loud funny – again, maybe it’s just me – I did find myself smiling in places, and as someone who also suffers from mental illness, it was so cathartic to be able to make fun of some of the awful things people with anxiety/depression/etc do and feel – and not in a bad way (laughing at you), but more along the lines of laughing with you. It’s life-affirming to know you’re not alone, and to see how other people deal with things – albeit in a book that’s written in a rather madcap, meandering manner.
She also has a couple of more serious chapters, in which she discusses some of her own struggles and existential issues. Overall, the book doesn’t really follow a particular chronology, but rather consists of short chapters that deal with how her mental illness affects even the most arbitrary aspects of her life, her daily interactions and routines, as well as the impact on the lives those close to her.
Free copy received from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.