Book Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

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Furiously Happy – Jenny Lawson (Flatiron Books, 2015)

I wasn’t familiar with Jenny Lawson before I read this book but she is best known for her website, The Bloggess. This is her second book and largely consists of personal stories, focusing on her own struggles with mental illness.

I really applaud Lawson’s honesty and her work to mitigate much of the stigma surrounding mental illness but I didn’t love this book. Mostly because our senses of humour are not the same. Furiously Happy is filled with stories of Lawson’s quirky charm and how she chooses to live her life despite of her sometimes crippling depression. The parts of the book I liked the most were where Lawson speaks honestly about her struggles and her refusal to succumb to thoughts of suicide or worthlessness. I think it’s wonderful for someone – anyone – in the public eye to be straightforward about this and, as far as that goes, it makes the book an important read.

The sections I enjoyed less were Lawson’s quirky stories about taxidermied racoons or koala chlamydia. Fans of her blog, I’m sure, enjoy her strange asthetic but I found it repetitive and a little annoying for the length of a book. I’m also left wondering – as I do with most characterizations like this – how much is true and how much is embellished. Lawson presents herself as too quirky to function and while some of this rings true, such as her stories of extreme anxiety while touring to promote her first book, others don’t, like her recounting of a meeting with a financial advisor. She’s obviously an adult with a job (even if that job is writing stuff on the internet) and a home and relationships and somehow she’s managed to sustain these things. Perhaps a lot of this stems from the fact that I don’t enjoy taxidermy on any level and Lawson really, really does. She also sets her husband, Victor, up as her straight man (and for some reason I kept picturing him as Victor Garber, which was actually kind of hilarious in my mind) but what she presents as the difference in the way they think and act mainly serves to accentuate her own eccentricities in a way that seemed unrealistic.

I think those readers who don’t see themselves fitting into our general North American society for whatever reason – mental illness or not – will find a lot to like and sympathize with in Lawson’s writing. For myself, I think I could take it in smaller doses. Maybe the occasional blog post.

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