Furiously Happy is Jenny Lawson’s candid and humorous memoir about her struggles with mental illness. Lawson, an award-winning blogger, holds nothing back in describing her disorders, her coping mechanisms, her family life, and her opinions on everything from the Australian outback to cats that yawn too much.
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I read Furiously Happy, which might have the best book cover ever, as part of the 2023 Thoughtful Reading Challenge. April’s challenge was to read a funny book since April is National Humor Month. Furiously Happy fits this category in spades.
The book is a collection of essays, many of which focus on Lawson’s depression and anxiety disorders (among several other issues). The author is very frank about what she experiences, including days when she just can’t get out of bed. I thought this was a really timely topic since so many people seem to be struggling with mental illness these days. I won’t pretend I fully understand mental illness, but I’ll be more empathetic after reading this book.
The memoir’s title, Furiously Happy, refers to a theory Lawson has about her emotions: if she is capable of great despair because of her depression, she should also be capable of “furious” happiness. And she sets about finding this happiness by doing over the top things and surrounding herself with objects that make her happy. For example, she has a thing for taxidermied animals and the book’s cover is a drawing of one of her stuffed raccoons (with an accurate pose). Of her over the top activities, Lawson says:
“This is why I sneak into other people’s bathrooms in haunted hotels and once accepted a job as a political czar who reports directly to the stray cat that sleeps at city hall. I have staged live zombie apocalypse drills in crowded ballrooms and I’ve landed on aircraft carriers at sea. I once crowdfunded enough money to buy a taxidermied Pegasus. I am furiously happy. It’s not a cure for mental illness … it’s a weapon, designed to counter it. It’s a way to take back some of the joy that’s robbed from you when you’re crazy.”
She also deals with life through humor. She knows she’s “broken” but she’s also determined to fight through her mental issues and one way she does that is with humor. Here are a couple of funny passages from Furiously Happy:
This is a note the author wrote to herself when she had a revelation in the middle of the night:
““We wish you a merry Christmas” is the most demanding song ever. It starts off all nice and a second later you have an angry mob at your door scream-singing, “Now bring us some figgy pudding and bring it RIGHT HERE. WE WON’T GO UNTIL WE GET SOME SO BRING IT RIGHT HERE.” Also, they’re rhyming “here” with “here.” That’s just sloppy. I’m not rewarding unrequested, lazy singers with their aggressive pudding demands.”
And after being given pain killers in the emergency room:
“””Did you know,” I asked no one in particular, “that sharks are attracted to urine?”
“She’ll be a bit high for a while,” the nurse said to Victor.
“So no matter how scared you are,” I continued, “DO NOT URINATE.”
“And that’s how you can tell the drugs are working,” said the nurse.
“No,” Victor sighed. “It’s actually not. This is your tip. She does this at restaurants too.””
Victor is her husband and typically plays the straight man in her stories. And he must be part saint because she comes across as exhausting to be around. Funny, but tiring. In fact, that’s how I would characterize Furiously Happy – funny but a little exhausting. I wouldn’t recommend reading it all at once. Fortunately, the book is organized so that you can read it in bite-sized chunks.
There’s a lot going on in Jenny Lawson’s head besides mental disorders. She’s funny and wildly imaginative, and I think those struggling with mental illness would find Furiously Happy to be a relatable beacon of hope and inspiration. But what’s with women humorists and comedians and vagina jokes?! I could have done without those.
Have you read Furiously Happy? I’d love to hear your opinion!
6 thoughts on “Book Review: Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson”
I loved this book! Very irreverent but so funny – makes you want to be friends with her – or at least I did – also read her other books. Definitely has a singular point of view
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Thanks for commenting! It would be fun to have a glass of wine with her!
I was really mixed on this book. There were clearly parts that were laugh out loud and laugh hard funny. She can be really clever.
But then there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t find that funny – such as the vagina jokes and the F Bombs left and right. What really put me off about the language was that she comments multiple times about her obsession with correct grammar and use of language, yet she throws around the F bomb way too often. My thoughts were – don’t you have better command of the English language than this and, are you just trying to be hip and edgy? If so, she’s clearly trying to gain an audience besides me. No doubt, that is true!
While there was some insightful stuff regarding mental illness, I thought this book was twice as long as it should have been. A lot of the time I was wondering, is there a point to this? You like cats and stuffed animals. Okay, I get it. Also, the book often times felt like her practice for stand-up comedy. Let’s throw a lot out there and see what the audience likes. Finally, did I mention that she has a blog? Well, she mentioned it way too many times. Again, felt like she was trying to get me to sign up for her blog and sell more books. I don’t find self-promotion enjoyable nor appealing. But wait, there’s more! If you order now….
Although there were some really funny lines and parts that I continue to think about, I kept waiting for the book to end and was exhausted with it when it finally did.
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Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the f-bombs!
I have to caveat this review by saying that reading a comedy book would not be on the top of my list. I guess I just don’t have a sense of humor. And while the subject matter of this book was serious (mental illness) in the end it did feel like a work of comedy. And I did laugh out loud at some things, so maybe I do have a tiny sense of humor. But, I have to agree that the f-bombs were what really put me off. Perhaps I am showing my age, but when did they become part of our everyday vernacular? She is clearly a talented writer–humorous, quick-witted and certainly imaginative. I just think she could do better by not stooping to using irreverent vocabulary. Also, completely agree with you Michelle that while she may be funny to be around, it must be exhausting as well!
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Using the f word so much is kind of lazy, isn’t it? Maybe she needs a thesaurus. 🙂