Monday, August 8, 2016

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Reviewed by Ambrea

Jenny Lawson is known for her wit, her humor, and her candor.  She’s published a best-selling novel (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, in case you’re curious), and she’s managed to cultivate a loyal following in the blogging world.  However, she has also struggled with mental illness and a slew of anxiety disorders and Furiously Happy is her attempt to express her lifelong battle and, more importantly, create “a hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety.”  It sounds like a terrible idea, but terrible ideas can sometimes lead to great things as Lawson shows with her latest memoir.

Furiously Happy is uproariously funny, brutally honest, completely candid, and absolutely absurd.  Jenny Lawson has a quirky sense of humor that sometimes borders on vulgar—no, rather she crosses the line on vulgar and waves at you from the other side—but, somehow, the shock value in her stories keeps them interesting.  And her ability to capture an unusual story, a tragic event, or a strange set of circumstances, makes her second book thoroughly hilarious and patently insane.

Lawson has a unique way of telling a story.  She frequently deviates from a set path, skipping merrily along, before she reverts back to the original narrative.  She distracts herself with new stories, but she has ADD (among other disorders) which explains quite a lot—and, I think, tends to make her storytelling interesting.  Her history might be a little fractured by her inability to stay focused, but I think she perfectly conveys herself and her story.  She shows her audience her real self, warts and all, and adequately characterizes her family and friends.  She really brings everyone to life, showing off their unique characteristics and attitudes, and she throws some pretty extraordinary stories into the mix.

Like how her husband bought her a mounted bear head, which is when she learned that he really did love her.  Or how her father stumbled across a stuffed giraffe and discovered a tribe of individuals with a love for ethically-achieved, taxidermied animals, just like Jenny.  Or her strange penchant for hosting midnight cat rodeos with stuffed raccoons.  Or her unusual encounter with a doctor who removed her gallbladder (an experience which, she claims, merely proves she’s turning into a zombie one organ at a time).

I mean, I couldn’t not laugh at the ridiculous, sometimes terrible things that happen to her and the equally terrible ideas that strike her fancy.  While Furiously Happy is sometimes fragmented and, well, just plain weird, it’s a strange, scintillating and comically absurd memoir.  It’s an irreverent romp through mental disorder, family dramas, and horrible things that are inadvertently funny—and it’s sure to garner a laugh or two, if only for Jenny’s mission to remain as furiously happy as humanly possible and live a life of which she’ll be proud.

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