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Book Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (4/5)

22 Jan

It seems right that my first book of the year was a comedic memoir. That’s a genre I really enjoy. It’s even better that it’s the work of Jenny Lawson whose first book I adored. It’s a joy to revisit an author I’ve enjoyed so much before and help light up a gloomy January.

Cover image via Goodreads

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Summary from Goodreads:

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:

“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”

Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family—and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy—and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?

Lawson’s sense of humor is amazing. She has a way of poking fun at her illness while still recognizing how serious it is and how much care she needs to take to make sure she stays healthy. She has advice that you can follow with or without depression: live life to the fullest when you can. And when you can’t, enjoy cat rodeos or spending time with your family or whatever you do have the energy to enjoy. And if you can’t, it’s OK. You’re not alone.

My signed copy, a Christmas present from my brother in 2015. (Yes, it took me forever to get to this.)
“For Sam. Don’t sabotage yourself. Plenty of other ppl willing to do that for free. Don’t give up on your writing dreams. Merry Xmas, Jenny Lawson”

Sometimes I wonder how Victor lives with Jenny. The way she describes herself in her book can’t be her 24/7. I’m sure there are periods of downtime. He and Jenny are the only two described in detail and I think they’re both very real. Victor loves his wife but recognizes her bouts of unusual behavior or her comical way of dealing with her mental illness. Jenny has found ways to cope with difficult situations she’d rather not be in and make herself and others laugh. I think that if I met either in person, they would probably act a lot like their portrayals in the book.

I adore Victor. He’s so supportive and loves Jenny when she’s at her lows. He recognizes how she’s coping and when she’s doing it well and when he needs to help. I think my husband is very supportive when I have a rough spot and I saw a lot of him in Victor. So it was hard not to love him.

I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness but there are sometimes I wonder if we all suffer from one or more to some degree. I’ll have moments of anxiety that feel very similar to the way Lawson described her anxiety. The difference is that mine isn’t crippling and are fleeting, unlike Lawson’s. It was reassuring to hear that someone else gets the same feelings I do and that if it ever started affecting my life in any way, there are treatment options. Though it also sounds like my solution of ‘let yourself stay home and snuggle on the couch with your hubby and watch Nailed It’ would probably help Lawson, too.

I enjoyed hearing about Lawson’s trip to Australia. I thought that would be a trigger for some of her illnesses but she used it as a chance to be Furiously Happy and enjoyed herself to no end. It was a great example of what she meant by being furiously happy and it was great to see her live that. I flipped through my physical book so I could see the images and got to laugh at them a second time.

There wasn’t a particular part of this book I didn’t enjoy. I would have liked slightly more cohesiveness, but I don’t think you can really ask for that when someone’s book is made of their blog posts. Some of the previously unpublished material helped weave a single narrative, but this book still suffered from being a bit disjointed and with no discernible timeline. Oh well.

Jenny Lawson
Image via NPR

Lawson narrated the audiobook which I thoroughly enjoyed. Her sarcasm and wit were great. Sometimes, when the author narrates, there are a lot of times when the sound engineer just couldn’t do enough to make the whole story sound good. Often, there is uneven pacing or inconsistent sound levels. Lawson had no such problems and I would listen to her narrate other books in a heartbeat. She may have another job doing this going forward, it was quite remarkable.

Lawson is helping to shine a light on mental illness: to remove the taboo and get people talking. I think she does an amazing job at this. She mixes serious comments and reflections on mental illness with her sense of humor and makes people come back to hear more. She embraces those that may have been marginalized and helps them find a group of like-minded people. That community can help those who need it and encourage them to seek out the help they may need.

Writer’s Takeaway: Combining humor into writing is always wonderful. It may not always be appropriate, but it can help lighten a very dark topic at a time where it may be very necessary. I love how Lawson did this and how she broached a very serious topic with light-heartedness and grace. I’ll read her next book in a heartbeat.

I adored this book and Lawson’s wit. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 2000-Present Time Period for the When Are You Reading? 2019 Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
‘Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things’ by Jenny Lawson | Joanne’s Reading Blog
“Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson | Zezee with Books
Book Review – Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson | Engrossed in a Good Book
Furiously Happy | The Bloggess