I waited, and waited to read this book, until the Word of the Week, for the Year of Words Book Challenge was Happy. I was really excited to read this book, I love Jenny’s blog, I think she’s hilarious, and I just knew I was going to love the book… but I didn’t.Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Published by Flatiron Books on September 22nd 2015
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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?
Let me explain myself, as I feel like I’m truly in the minority when it comes to my opinion of this book. Let’s get this out of the way. I did laugh. I laughed out loud, loudly… more than once. The book IS funny.
Which is where I started having issues.
I was under the impression this would read more like a memoir, but it is in fact, short stories about things she’s thinking, or things that have happened in her world, her head, her life. As the stories progressed I began to feel more and more uncomfortable. The “hilarity” of her circumstances began to feel more like a huge wall she was putting up to keep the reader at a distance, rather than a tool to let the reader in to get to know her.
I am going to say, just like with Then She Found Me, I have a personal relationship with mental illness. I’ve been around mental illness all my life, between, family, friends, boyfriends, room mates, and of course my job in the mental health profession for years, I’ve had a lot of experience with people with severe and persistent mental illness.
Maybe because of my personal experiences I could see/feel the pain behind the situations, and found it uncomfortable when the pain was not at all acknowledged, but instead, painted with a wide, colorful brush of comedy.
Jenny is a funny woman, she’s a great writer, but I think she missed the mark by sharing all her experience in terms of comic relief.
I guess I’m really disappointed because in the beginning she talked about where Furiously Happy came from, and I absolutely LOVED the story, and I could not WAIT to read about that journey… but it seemed to have gotten lost for me. It felt to me this book was more about her trying to show how she was hysterically happy… even when it wasn’t true. Furiously Happy brings to mind a strength. It makes me feel the person is strong, and moving forward, and fighting for her happiness. That is not the feeling I got at.all. from the stories included in the book.
I’ve been told to read her first book, Let’s Just Pretend This Never Happened, that it is more a memoir. I think I will do that. I do like Jenny, and I wanted to love this book. I’d still actually like to read her story… just not these stories of pain masked in comedy.
PS. I read this book as part of the Year of Words book challenge, where each week comes with a different word. The word this week was Happiness. You’re welcome to join the challenge, no matter where we are in the year. You can start with whatever word you want, when you want, with whatever book you want. It’s a super relaxed book challenge, that will help you get out of a reading rut, and look at book selection in a new way. (And it’s lots of fun) You can get the list of words by entering your address below, and then come be part of the conversation, and track your books in the Year of Words Book Challenge Group over on Goodreads. See you there!