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Book review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Book review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Racoon by Josh Tidsbury via Flickr

Racoon by Josh Tidsbury via Flickr

Website Culture Editor Julia Mitchell reviews Jenny Lawson’s newest book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.

Furiously Happy is the second book written by Jenny Lawson, also known on the internet as The Bloggess, following her number one bestseller Let’s Pretend This Never Happened back in 2012. While her first memoir also included many anecdotes from her childhood, this new book solely discusses Lawson’s adult life and extensive experience with mental illness. It manages to be an absolutely hilarious and enjoyable read while also relaying some serious messages about the severe impact that mental illness has had on her life. Feeling intrigued? Read on…

The chapters of the book alternate between funny non-illness related stories from Lawson’s life and more serious passages discussing the difficulties and darkness that she faces on a regular basis. These darker chapters often share incredibly personal accounts of low mood, self harm, and even suicidal thoughts, while others discuss the use of therapy, medication, and coping techniques that she’s used to treat her mental health problems. Lawson has also written about some lesser know conditions including Trichotillomania and various sleep disorders that she also struggles with on a regular basis.

Those chapters that don’t focus on mental illness tell ‘furiously happy’ (more about that in a minute) and often utterly hilarious anecdotes from her life, including a 2am rodeo featuring a cat and a taxidermied racoon, and a ‘skintervention’ that involved her guilt-ridden removal of a colony of bacteria living on her face. Nice. Lawson has a brilliantly unique writing voice that is somehow capable of flicking between serious essays and ridiculous stories while still (mostly) making sense. Her very irrelevant writing style adds hugely to the humour, meaning that while a chapter may begin by nattering away about one subject, Lawson’s train of thought is likely to wander off down a completely random path somewhere in the middle of the text, and then stumble back to the original subject near the end. This combined with a large heaping of dark humour means that even many of the serious chapters tend to go off on chuckle-inducing, laugh-out-loud tangents. Seriously, I giggled so much while I was reading this book.

So where does the idea of being ‘furiously happy’ come into all of this? The concept originates from a blog post written by Lawson while she was in the depths of depression, where she declared that ‘I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUSLY HAPPY OUT OF SHEER SPITE’. In a nutshell, it’s about making the most of the ‘okay’ moments in our lives and turning them into brilliant, furiously happy memories that can be stored away for the bad days when we can’t get out of bed. And the idea hasn’t just resonated with me, but it’s one that individuals from all over the world have connected with. Other important messages that the book relays are ones that I have heard time and time again, but still demand be repeated and pushed out to as many people as possible. ‘Depression lies’ feels to me, by far, the most powerful message in the book that I wish I could etch into clouds and buildings and mountains for everyone to see. Some of the passages really are so quotable and motivational, but I’ll leave you to discover the rest for yourself.

Furiously Happy is a fun and important read that I would recommend for both sufferers and non-sufferers of mental illness alike. If you haven’t experienced any mental health problems of your own, this book will be useful in helping you to understand the loved ones in your life that do. And for those who are struggling or have done in the past, I hope that this book shows you that you’re not alone and that there’s hope for everyone who’s fighting in the dark.

Furiously Happy is on sale now, priced at £12.99, and published by Picador, Pan Macmillan.

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