Aug 29
2016

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (A ‘funny’ mental health memoir) | Book Review

Furiously-Happy-by-Jenny-LawsonIt is apt that this review follows my review of Bossypants, as this was the second book that I consumed in the audio format.

From my initial (relatively ignorant) POV, these two books had a lot in common. Both met my criteria for picking up audio books –

Non-fiction – check

Memoir – check

Read by author – check

Funny – check

But unlike Bossypants, where I knew Tina Fey, and had seen her work; I had never heard of Jenny Lawson. I was actively looking up funny, celebrity memoirs, to ease into the audio-book format, and I stumbled upon this one. The blurb was what caught my attention instantly-

A hysterical, ridiculous book, about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea.

But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

The first line – that was exactly what I thought. Because a ‘funny’ book about mental illness did seem like a terrible idea to me. That is, until I read the book – and now it feels like the best idea ever. But hold on, I am getting ahead of myself.

So, like I said, I really had no idea who Jenny Lawson was –  I stumbled into her hilariously weird world quite by accident. But for your benefit I will give a quick introduction.

Jenny Lawson a.k.a. The Bloggess is a wickedly funny and delightful bundle of frantic energy, who, in-spite of suffering from various anxiety disorders, and even debilitating depression, has made her mission in life to be ‘Furiously Happy‘.

This book is a no-holds-barred expression of her life and dealing with mental illness; a look inside her precious crazy head. And no, she wouldn’t mind the use of the word crazy. Actually, she is taking crazy back, and in style (you would have to read the book to know what I mean).

In fact, this whole book is  basically a manifesto of owning one’s messy and crazy bits, and alchemizing (is this a word?) them into comedic gold.

Now since I started off by with comparing this book with Bossypants, I must say that these two wonderfully unique women have two very distinct styles of self expression.

I happen to connect with Tina Fey more, because like I said  in my review of Bossypants, her words and form of expression, resonates with my deepest thoughts.  In contrast,  Jenny Lawson’s style of expression and  her sense of humor, at times, comes off as over-the-top and forceful (to me). But this is probably how she normally talks/writes, and it possibly just takes some getting used to. Which is why, I wouldn’t necessarily hold this against her, because this is just a matter of personal preference.

The important thing is – even with all her silliness and shenanigans aimed at making us laugh (and keeping herself furiously happy), Jenny Lawson is trying to do something really important here. She’s humanizing depression and mental illness; she’s reaching out and making it relatable, rather than something shameful and embarrassing. This requires a lot of personal courage, and I applaud her for it.

Jenny, along with countless others, are survivors — survivors of their pain, of their chemical imbalances, of their terror, and of their uncontrollable impulses. And when such people speak up, they show the light to others, the light at the end of the dark tunnel of debilitating depression; they give  hope, the hope that might make all the difference between holding on and letting go.

If we have more people like her who have the courage to talk about their innermost fears and vulnerabilities – hopefully  someday,  we will reach a new  beginning, where there will be empathy and acceptance for mental illness, and that will become our new normal.

Rating: 5 Stars

It’s rare that I give 5 stars to a book which I did not absolutely enjoy (and I had some issues with this one – some segments seemed forced and unnatural). But I am not sure how to rate a book like this one. How do I give a numeric value to her courage? How do I compute the effect of the revolution of change she has participated in?

Most importantly – what star rating do I give to a book that made me  feel like maybe I am not a total human train-wreck.

Which is why, I am going to overlook the petty complaints I have with this one, and give it 5 stars.

Because in-spite of it’s shortcomings, this one made me  resolve to spend more time being furiously happy, and there aren’t enough stars in the world for that.

Furiously Happy (Amazon) | Furiously Happy (Audible) | Furiously Happy (Flipkart)

Some of my favorite quotes from the book – 

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 are crazy. Aaahhh..you’re not crazy, my mom says again, waving a wet plate at me. Stop saying you’re crazy, people will think you are a lunatic.

Maybe one day someone will crack upon this head of mine and find out what’s wrong in there..and also.. what’s right. Because it’s both. Without the dark there isn’t light. Without the pain there is no relief.

I am privileged to be able to recognize that the sound of laughter is a blessing and a song and realize that the bright hours spent with my family and friends are extraordinary treasures to be saved. Because those same moments are medicine. A balm. Those moments are a promise. A promise that life is worth fighting for. And that promise is what pulls me through when depression distorts reality and tries to convince me otherwise.

Twitter is a lot like having a large invisible gang of equally messed up people who will hide with you in bathrooms, and make you laugh under the pillow fort you have built in a lonely hotel room. Many of them suffer from the same fears which keep them similarly isolated, but we have found a way to be alone together.There is something wonderful about experiencing life with friendly strangers and stranger friends who all fit in your pocket. […] They tell you you are not alone. And suddenly you aren’t.

Have you guys read this book? Actually, have you read any mental health memoir? Or listened to one? I am looking to read more in this genre, and would love some recommendations. Do share! As always, I look forward to chatting with you guys in the comments!

-Shantala

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Comments

  1. I keep forgetting that I want to read this! I know just what she means about furious happiness — when my depression was at its worst, I felt positively defiant every time I had a visitation of furious happiness. You have to cling on to it when it’s there! (But I’d still rather have my psych meds. Much happier now.)
    Jenny @ Reading the End recently posted…Review: Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, Steven HydenMy Profile

  2. Ok! You have officially sold me on ‘non fiction audio books’ 🙂
    Sid recently posted…What’s your Shampoo?My Profile

  3. Thanks for asking me to read this, Shantala and for more reasons than one. I follow Jenny’s blog and have been curious about this book ever since it came out plus it’s a memoir and it’s about mental health. All three boxes ticked for me and you know the reasons too.

    There’s so much I love about Jenny that I would probably love this book too 🙂 Still doubt I’d get into audio book, though. Just can’t get myself to read unless it’s a paperback. Yes, Kindle too doesn’t cut it for me.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…9 years a Mom: An Anniversary and a GiveawayMy Profile

  4. Lata Sunil says:

    I already have BossyPants on my TBR .. and now this one. Actually I know someone close to me who would love to read this one. Don’t we just love audiobooks? I love to hear difficult to read books in audio format as otherwise, I may not read it at all.

  5. This book sounds like right up my alley except for an audio book format. Just can’t read those. A memoir about mental illness written in a funny way. Respect for her. Your review really makes me want to pick up the book is there is a paperback.
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  6. You make me want to pick up this one. I have been meaning to try audio books for some time now. And a non-fiction work would be just ideal since I’m a rather reluctant non-fiction reader. I think the premise of this book is brilliant – how wonderful it is to use humour as a weapon against depression – that’s something I could do with at this point in my life. Thanks for this one Shantala.

  7. Sound like a book to read to lighten the mood. I loved Bossypants, so this one might be another one to add to that reading list that never grows shorter.

  8. Although I’m not much into reading Non-fiction, but the way you’ve portrayed it, I think I’d give it a shot! 🙂
    Radhika Mundra recently posted…Hello, Old Friend!My Profile

  9. Loved your review. I am furiously waiting to read this …..
    Vasantha Vivek recently posted…A to Z Of MeMy Profile

  10. I haven’t heard of Jenny Lawson but now I will try finding her on Yoytube. I loved how incredibly happy the cover looks. Your review is always wonderful to read. I love the excerpt you shared.
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  11. Sounds like fun. All in all, it looks like it had a positive impact on you, that is what I would expect from a book! For having spent hours on it, its a fair expectation, right?
    samra recently posted…Learning life’s lessons the ‘Ouch’ way!My Profile

  12. Well… she is crazy but in a good way. I thought its ok to feel depressed these days and ok to be funny. We make fun on everything that’s not really funny, why on on depression… it makes it light is it not?… she is definitely couragious, and coming out of depression demands courage as well to develope the will or dilute the focus in being depressed, somethings there are no readymade solutions, it’s all within you… when depressed it helps in connecting with funny people that make you fell light.. and reading good books… it was a good review.
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