Book Review: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

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November 10, 2015
“I wish someone had told me this simple but confusing truth: Even when everything’s going your way you can still be sad. Or anxious. Or uncomfortably numb. Because you can’t always control your brain or your emotions even when things are perfect.”
That quote about sums up this book for me. I read a library copy (thank you Universe for libraries!) so I couldn’t highlight or put a post it on this paragraph even though I wanted to, so bad! So I wrote it down and now I’m typing it up here because if I take anything from this book, it’ll be that very simple truth and I want to remember it whenever I look back on this review.

When I picked up Furiously Happy from the library, I had no idea what it was about or even who Jenny Lawson was. In all honesty, I wanted to read it because I was immensely amused by the ecstatic raccoon on the cover (spoiler alert: it is an actual taxidermied raccoon the author owns! How cool is that?) and because I seem to really enjoy reading essays about strangers’ struggles in life. I wasn’t disappointed.

Furiously Happy is a collection of essays where Jenny Lawson very hilariously talks about the darkest parts of her life. She will make you laugh about her bouts of depression, her anxiety-induced panic attacks and her issues with self-injury and other mental and physical maladies. None of it is funny except for the way she talks about her issues and illnesses and I found that to be refreshing. Here is someone who doesn’t stigmatize mental illness, who chooses to speak up about her struggles and admit that yes, she has issues and yes, sometimes they get out of control, but she won’t let that destroy her life and happiness.

At times, reading this book made me nod my head vigorously and want to shout, “yes, exactly! That is exactly how I feel!” It validated my feelings and reminded me that I wasn’t alone in thinking/acting a certain way. Like how sometimes you don’t have the words to explain how you feel and then you listen to a song that seems to describe them perfectly. I don’t suffer from mental illnesses or any kind of physical malady, thankfully, but social anxiety has been messing with my head for as long as I can remember and Jenny Lawson helped me put some of those tumultuous thoughts into coherent, relatable paragraphs. Yes, it is normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed, even when you’re surrounded by people you know and like. If it makes you feel like hiding, go ahead and hide! It doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it just means your brain hates you!

This is a very personal book, but one a lot of people can relate to. Her essays are short and to the point (and sometimes pointless, I’ll admit) and they’re all infused with Lawson’s honest sense of humor. There’s a point halfway through the book where the essays kind of feel repetitive, different anecdotes with the same moral, but I wasn’t too put off by this because it doesn’t hurt anyone to read over and over again that struggling is okay, yes, but fighting to be furiously happy is even better.

I would recommend this book to anyone out there who’s wondering if they should read it. Yes, definitely read it. Whether you struggle with your own demons or are a witness to someone else’s, this book will give you a better understanding while making you laugh in the process.

And did I mention there are taxidermied raccoons riding cats??? Because that is a thing. Don’t miss out on the midnight cat rodeo!

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