I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Published: 2015 by Flatiron Books
Genres: Humor, Nonfiction
Source: the publisher
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It all started with the taxidermied raccoon. I don’t normally read memoirs or books about depression, even if they do promise to be funny. A little too real, a little too close to home. In general, I prefer my books to be set in other worlds, other times, other cultures. I want to experience something new. But as I was sitting in line for two hours at Book Expo trying to snag a copy of Six of Crows, I started to see people walking around with a book called Furiously Happy. The cover was intriguing. The dead raccoon was both delightful and morbidly creepy, a blend of exuberance what-the-fuck-am-I-looking-at. I asked the person next to me to hold my spot for a moment, and grabbed a copy for myself. As I sat in line, I opened the book and started reading.
I was hooked from the author’s note, in which Jenny briefly explains her struggle with depression and the concept of being furiously happy, which is basically experiencing extreme joy when one can as a counterpoint to the extreme lows that life can throw at you. One example the author gave was jumping into fountains that weren’t made to be jumped into. I may or may not have done this on several occasions (I am totally not incriminating myself, but would highly recommend it. Just be careful not to get caught, and maybe bring a towel).
Within a few chapters, Jenny mentions some of her issues, including trichotillomania, or compulsive hair-pulling. This is something I’ve had since I hit puberty, and I haven’t really talked about it much with anybody after seeing how my parents responded when they noticed (there was a lot of “Why don’t you just stop?” and no realization of how much it bothered me that I couldn’t, which only made it worse, and for a long time I didn’t know trich was a thing and just thought I was a freak of nature. Then the internet made me realize that I wasn’t alone, and that trich is actually somewhat common. I’m luckier than many people who have it, because I’ve always been able to hide it with normal hairstyling/ponytails/clips/etc. There isn’t a cure, but on the bright side, as a friend once pointed out to me, at least “trichotillomania” is a fun word to say.). Seeing Jenny bring up trich in the book in addition to the whole jumping-in-fountains thing made me realize almost instantly that she was an Anne-of-Green-Gables-esque kindred spirit.
The book continued to resonate with me as Jenny shared snippets from her life, which included everything from travel stories, visits to the shrink, and quiet evenings at home. She has a wicked sense of humor, and I found myself laughing out loud at her rants about women’s pants and their lack of pockets, hugging koalas while dressed as koalas, how swans can be dicks sometimes, and voodoo vaginas. Did any of those make you curious? She certainly doesn’t lead a boring life. Furiously Happy is permeated by a sense of chaotic joy to balance the darkness that life and brain chemistry throw at you. Jenny does a fantastic job explaining that darkness to people who have never been there or experienced it themselves. My favorite description was when, after several more involved descriptions, she notes that depression is like not wanting cheese anymore, even though it’s cheese, which really gets to the heart of losing all interest in things you’d normally love for reasons even you don’t understand while it’s happening.
There were so many quotes from the book that stood out to me, but I’m going to be a good book blogger and not quote from an advance reader copy without checking against the final published version. And since the final version of Furiously Happy doesn’t come out until late September, I will advise you to preorder it because it is awesome and everyone should read it. Seriously. You’ll sit on the bus giggling and the people sitting next to you will probably think you’re crazy. They will likely be correct, and that’s a good thing.