Furiously Happy

November 15, 2016
Furiously Happy Book Cover Furiously Happy
Jenny Lawson
Memoir
Flatiron Books
September 22nd 2015
Audiobook
329
Library

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?

(via Goodreads)

 

Things haven’t felt their brightest lately, so I listened to the Furiously Happy audiobook. And also lately, I’ve been choosing my audiobooks based on whether or not they have been nominated (or won!) an Audie award. That’s how I ended up with a copy of Furiously Happy: 2016 winner in the Humor category. And that’s all I knew going into it, well, that and my Goodreads friends had a high overall rating for this book. I expected humor, I expected stories about Jenny Lawson’s life, and… that’s about it.

I was woefully unprepared.

Furiously Happy is certainly partially Jenny Lawson’s memoir. furiouly-happy-lawson This is her second published book, and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened tells a good portion of her life story growing up as the daughter of a taxidermist. But Furiously Happy bunkers down with the intent to talk about Jenny Lawson’s lifelong battle with severe mental illness.

And that was not what I was prepared for.

Jenny Lawson is a professional blogger. She talks to the world about her bouts of mental illness and the beautiful view she has on her life. She tells stories about her life events and the crazy things her brain tells her to do. She is honest and real and is trying to get people to talk about mental illness. And, sadly, I didn’t know that going into this book.

Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free.

The audiobook starts and I hear Jenny Lawson’s voice. The first thing I think to my very judgmental self is, “Seriously? This is the author’s voice? Bad narrators ruin audiobooks. I don’t know if I can listen to her talk for 8.5 hours.”

Bad Jackie. Don’t be so judgmental. Isn’t that the whole POINT of this book? To stop that?!?! …I digress…

Well, I start listening. And I quickly learn that Jenny Lawson is a beautiful human with an amazing view on life. Her perspective is refreshing and hilarious. The perspective that Jenny Lawson provided is so unlike current-day Jackie and is everything like what 13-year-old Jackie expected she should have become. Yes, her voice is a bit high-pitched. And yes, she phrases things strangely. But right now I’m just listening to fun notes on life, and it’s pretty cool. Silly, exaggerated, hilarious notes on life. Everything I want to be.

If you put a bunch of chameleons on top of a bunch of chameleons on top of a bowl of Skittles what would happen? Is that science? Because if so, I finally get why people want to do science.

Then shit gets serious.

Lawson mentions her depression in the first chapter, but more or less just focused on her new motto for life: Be furiously happy. She’s tired of depression running her life, and so she will now attack everything with aggressive, passionate happiness. No more will depression rule her life.

But it’s so much more than depression.

Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad.

In the chapter Pretend you’re good at it, Lawson addresses she stifling fear she deals with regularly.furiouly-happy-taxidermy-raccoon Her brain tells her “You can’t do this”. She shuts down and spends days hiding from the world. This was the chapter that completely changed my perspective on this audiobook. Lawson was terrified to record the audiobook, but it was important to her that she was able to share these stories in her own voice. She was terrible at it, and after the first day of crushing defeat in the studio recording, she wanted to give up. But she got some advice from a good friend, who merely said:

Pretend you’re good at it.

You go, Lawson. You go.

Going forward, I better understood Lawson. I didn’t care that her voice was a bit annoying to me. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Jenny Lawson stood up to something that terrified her and WON. Now I can’t imagine hearing this book in any other voice.

The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.  

Furiously Happy goes on to talk more and more about mental illness. Specifically, from the perspective of Jenny Lawson. She is frank, honest, and sometimes terrifyingly brutal. I have never experienced an author being so comfortable in their own skin. She is obviously hiding nothing from her readers. Lawson also is clear that she isn’t trying to force her experiences or perspective on her readers either.

When you come out of the grips of depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you are allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again. 

I’m so glad that this book fell into my lap. Mental illness is something that we don’t know enough about. It’s something that is only just coming out of taboo. Just like gender politics, equality, racism, etc. we won’t improve the situation unless we talk about it. Plus, this is incredibly important to me as an individual. Many of the closest people in my life are suffering, or have suffered, from some sort of mental illness. And yet, I barely understand. Hearing Lawson talk about how mental illness affects her life so profoundly makes me want to learn more. Time to educate myself!

Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.

You’ll laugh until you cry. You’ll wonder, “Who even thinks of that, let alone does it?!”. You’ll be sad. But that’s okay. This book is worth all those emotions, and more.

This book is brilliant. Go. Learn. And be Furiously Happy.

3 stars

17 Comments

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea November 15, 2016 at 9:55 am

    This is a fantastic review! I feel like I have such a better understanding of the book now. I would have picked this up expecting something entirely different as well. I think maybe I should keep this one on the back shelf. I don’t usually read titles like this. It is very rare. But I feel like I can benefit from it. I am also surprised she narrates the audio. I am newer to audiobooks. Do authors do that much?

    • Jackie B November 15, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks, Danielle! I appreciate that. Yeah– this book kinda caught me off guard. I hope to read her other books eventually, perhaps those will be more of the funny and more your cuppa?
      I listen to the audiobooks for a lot of memoirs, and almost exclusively of authors who read their own. I find in these cases I always get something more out of it. Emotion, feeling– I just feel more connected to their story compared to when I hear it read by someone else. It’s most common for actors of some variety to do this, but this is the first time I’ve heard of a blogger reading their own. I’ll keep an eye out for non-actors reading their books now!

      • Books, Vertigo and Tea November 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        I can definitely understand how listening to the author narrate their own story would be a much more rewarding experience. I am so looking into a few titles! I recently started following her blog, she is honestly very new news to me. Oops 🙂 I am always last haha.

        • Jackie B November 16, 2016 at 12:21 pm

          The internet is so large, it’s hard not to find something “old” in a new way daily. Don’t think of yourself as always last– but perhaps instead as always learning!

  • Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek November 15, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Great review, whenever I see that cover it always makes me chuckle.

    • Jackie B November 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Right?! Taxidermy raccoons? Bring it on. I love all her weird stories about this raccoon, too. Just brilliant.

      • Drew @ TheTattooedBookGeek November 15, 2016 at 11:10 am

        It’s just got such a cheesy bright smile!

        • Jackie B November 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm

          It does! I feel like I probably need more crazed looking taxidermy animals in my life. I hope there is a whole collection of crazy animals like this somewhere in the world. The world looks brighter to me with this collection in it.

  • Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks November 17, 2016 at 2:04 am

    I already read a review about this book, and the blogger loved it so much. It’s not usually my kind of book, but it made me think about whether or not I could actually enjoy it. I’m thrilled to hear you liked it as well, and I should try and put it on my TBR – but not the audiobook, I’m not too much into these, I don’t think I’d focus well on these haha. Lovely review! 🙂

    • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      I totally understand not being into audiobooks. I used to not care for them, but I gave them a second shot when I learned about the Audie Awards. A terrible narrator can ruin an amazing book. But, to each their own! I hear the physical copy of this book contains some amazing images as well. If you get to reading it, Marie, I hope you find it worthwhile!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom November 17, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Ahhh yes. Jenny does have a rather high pitches nasally voice… I could see where that would get old fairly quickly… also if you didn’t know about the darker parts going into this book, I could definitely see where it would catch you off guard. The chapters are definitely full of highs and lows.

    I read this in print form and laughed my ass off. I laughed so hard my husband banished me to the living room because he could sleep with my cackling. I definitely think this book isn’t for everyone… also the timing needs to be right when you read it.

    • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Yes! I think timing was critical for me. Some people close to me have been struggling with depression and I haven’t been able to relate to them or help in a way that is useful. Listening to this book provided a new perspective for me and I think I can be a more valuable part of their support network now. This book probably won’t appeal to everyone, and might not have appealed to me at a different time— but it is freaking hilarious.

  • Laila@BigReadingLife November 19, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Terrific review. I had this on my TBR already but now I may have to move it up. I enjoyed (but didn’t love) her first book and think I might like this one a little better based on what I’ve read about it. I really liked the quotations you shared.

    • Jackie B November 19, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      Thank you! I haven’t read any of her other books, so I’d love to hear what you think of this in comparison. I really read it at the right time in my life too– as I was discussing with Amanda above, I think the timing really helped me. Plus, listening to Lawson’s crazy stories in her own voice made me appreciate her jokes quite a bit more. It might have also been easier to separate sarcasm from jokes from her serious moments as well, now that I think of it…

  • AvalinahsBooks December 22, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Great post. And, to be honest, I’ve been very curious about this book, cause Goodreads has been pushing it here and there for the past year or so. I’ve just seen it everywhere. I think it might have been on the awards? But, to be honest, I didn’t even know what it was about. Maybe I should check it out, and funny enough, but I just marked her other book as to-read yesterday, as it turns out!

    I’m surprised you just have it 3 stars though? The review sounds like at least a 4 star one 🙂

    • Jackie B December 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Thanks, Avalinah! I really enjoyed this book, but there are some things that I didn’t connect well with. It was certainly hilarious, but I just don’t think I was in the right mental place for this book to become one I’ll constantly re-read.

      I firmly believe that one’s mental state when reading will significantly affect the enjoyment of a novel. I just don’t think I was mentally prepared for what Lawson was sharing, and that affected my enjoyment. Someday, I will re-read this book and it will be a completely different experience. She moved me and taught me a lot about coping with mental illness in many forms, but the changes between her frightened, depressed, and sad experiences and the comedic, manic, crazy ones were quite jarring.

      But in the end, it was a really enjoyable book. I’m so glad I’ve read it, and I encourage many others to do the same!

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