I had never heard of Jenny Lawson, her blog, or her previous books before I picked this audiobook up at the library. I was just looking through the new additions in search of something to listen to with a friend during a road trip. I wanted something funny, with some meaning, but nothing that would leave you on the edge of your seat, as it were, if we couldn’t finish it all (it was only a 3 hour or so drive). This is what I picked. Sadly, we never actually got around to listening to any of it during the road trip itself. But I listened to it afterwards. And I was so far beyond pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it that I texted my friend multiple times telling her that we missed out by talking instead of listening on our trip!
This is also an incredibly appropriate review for me to be posting today because I am personally FURIOUSLY HAPPY right now, celebrating my 100th blog post!!!! I’ve been posting my reviews here for about a year, have just hit 200 followers, and I’m now at my 100th post – this is just the perfect time to be posting about one of my first 5-star reads of the year!!
“Because nothing says ‘welcome’ like a surprise umbrella-wielding giraffe head staring at you with laser beams for eyes.”
This is a sort of essay collection memoir from Jenny Lawson. She has a very popular blog, The Bloggess, that has really gotten a lot of attention for the way she addresses mental health, both in general and, in particular, her own struggles with depression and anxiety. She also has a previously published collection of personal essays about her childhood in rural Texas, her awkward high school years, her life with her husband, etc. This collection is a little more focused, I believe (having not read the first one), on her current life and living on the roller coaster of mental illness. The title is born of one of her popular blog posts, where she spoke about combating her anxiety and depression by deciding to attempt to live life in a “furiously happy” way. And this book does a wonderful job portraying her actual efforts to follow through on that, mixed with her mental setbacks and roadblocks, and sprinkled with some just straight up hilarious stories.
I loved this book. Lawson narrates it herself and her voice/intonation throughout is perfect. I love the ridiculous chapters, about receiving felt vaginas in the mail, meeting kangaroos and koalas in Australia dressed in kangaroo and koala onesies, having midnight rodeos with her cats when she cannot sleep at night, the insane conversations she has with her therapist, and being convinced that her body is zombifying itself and trying to kill her. Also, I have never in my life read so much about taxidermy. Lawson’s father is a taxidermist, and it leads to so many ridiculous and unbelievable stories that were beyond entertaining to listen to. I could not get enough of the surreal situations Lawson found herself in (or made for herself) – they were outrageous in the best way. On the flip side, the few serious chapters interspersed throughout the collection, the ones that seriously addressed how hard living with mental illnesses can be for both herself and her family/friends, were haunting and real and beautiful in their unpretentiousness (apparently that’s not officially a word – I beg to differ…and what would I say instead?) and sincerity. It is undeniably important for her to share her insights, to help spread awareness and understanding for these highly (and horribly) stigmatized illnesses. And, although I do not have any actually diagnosed disorders, there were many parts of what Lawson talked about that I easily identified with: the anxiety, the tendency to overthink everything (especially her section on worrying about offending people), the impostor syndrome, and more.
Just a few other things I want to note…this is the “catch all” paragraph. I particularly liked the spellcheck thread throughout the book – what it tried to autocorrect and Lawson’s reactions to that. Every section that included an argument with Victor was great – some sound very familiar and all are exactly the type of twisted logic that marriage (or any long terms relationship) brings out in people. The contractor chapter was on point (I laughed out loud when she got to the end and was living in the walls with the possums while the contractors had taken up residence in the main home). Her mind is a beautiful thing…despite the pushback she has to deal with from it, which admittedly is terrible at times, it gives her such imagination and originality! Every single “down the rabbit hole” situation she described was comical and absurdly creative. I am totally not a cat person but I cannot help but love the names of her cats (Hunter S. Tomcat and Ferris Mewler).
Everything about this was wonderful. It hit all the correct funny bones and serious notes to perfection. I would recommend this to pretty much anyone. Whether you are looking for something silly and entertaining right before bed (nice short chapters), something to keep you company while driving (it’s seriously like a friend is in the car with you, telling stories), something to help you know you aren’t alone when you want to curl up in bed and never leave your room (but without being overbearing or wallow-y), or if you need some guidance in how to help any friends/family struggling with mental illness (in an encouraging and positive way), this book is it. Go forth and enjoy!