Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: Furiously Happy

By Denise Keliuotis

To begin, a word of warning: Do not, under any circumstances, read this book while sitting in a quiet room surrounded by strangers (i.e., a doctor’s waiting room) unless, of course, you (a) want said strangers to wonder what could possibly be so funny; or (b) you enjoy biting the insides of your cheeks and willing yourself not to snort laugh. Again.

You’re welcome.

Before I ever bought Jenny Lawson’s book, I knew two things: first, it would be funny. Second, it would touch my heart and make me love her even more than I already did. Of course, Furiously Happy did not disappoint.

Like millions of other fans, I found Lawson through her blog, The Bloggess. Lawson’s humor pulled me in (more than once, I made the mistake of reading her blog at work, prompting “what-in-the-world-are-you-laughing-at-in-there” knocks on my office door), but her honesty – her heart – kept me coming back, again and again. In Furiously Happy, Lawson lays her big heart wide open. She details her ongoing and endless struggle to live with the myriad issues that have long plagued her: depression, rheumatoid arthritis, intense social anxiety. Lawson describes moments where her illnesses have literally brought her to her knees. Indeed, Furiously Happy is meant to offer a glimpse into a life lived under the shadow of these diagnoses.

But, at its core, Furiously Happy is about hope. It is about accepting those things Lawson cannot change, while refusing to allow them to destroy who she is at her core: a fighter with one of the most genuine and warped senses of humor you’ll ever find. Through short, often hilarious essays, Lawson shares her tumultuous life with an honesty that is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. I rode the roller coaster gladly, snort laughing through one chapter, feeling my heart sink in the next.

There is much to love in Furiously Happy. I always enjoy Lawson’s “arguments” with her most patient husband, Victor, and those featured in the book are quite brilliant. But, more than that, I loved Lawson’s insight into how she ticks, what makes her who she is. I even loved her reason for writing Furiously Happy:

I want this book to help people fighting with mental illness, and also those who have friends and family who are affected by it. I want to show people that there can be advantages to being “a bit touched,” as my grandmother put it. I want my daughter to understand what’s wrong with me and what’s right with me. I want to give hope. I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but without selling any Coca-Cola products.

To say Lawson has a way with words is like saying Julia Child was a decent chef, or Beethoven wrote a few catchy tunes. It simply does not do her justice. Lawson is a masterful writer, a skilled storyteller, a unique character who fearlessly stages and stars in her own stories. With seeming ease, she combines humor and heartache, a feat attempted by many, yet mastered by so few. Lawson leads the pack . . even if that pack is made up of a bunch of metal chickens and taxidermied mice and raccoons, all dressed in tiny suits, marching to the beat of Lawson’s very unique drummer.


Janine said...

I have never read a book that actually made me laugh out loud. Maybe a few snickers and light giggles. But never a full blown laugh out loud. I am going to put this book on my wish list. There are a lot of times when I need a good book like this.

Denise K. said...

Her first book is even funnier. Check them both out -- you won't be disappointed!

Wall-to-wall books said...

OK just your first paragraph alone makes me want to read this book!
Going on my wish list.

Liz Parker said...

Great review, Melissa. Her first book was good too so I want to read this at some point.

Jennifer C said...

I bought this book when I saw you got it in the mail. The cover is so interesting! I can't wait to read it. :)