“I can tell you that ‘just cheer up’ is almost universally looked at as the most unhelpful depression cure ever. It’s pretty much the equivalent of telling someone who just had their legs amputated to ‘just walk it off.’ Some people don’t understand that for a lot of us, mental illness is a severe chemical imbalance rather than just having ‘a case of the Mondays.’ Those same, well-meaning people will tell me that I’m keeping myself from recovering because I really just need to ‘cheer up and smile.’ That’s when I consider chopping off their arms and blaming them for not picking up their severed arms so they can take them to the hospital to get reattached.”
So this is the first time I’ve ever listened to or reviewed an audiobook, and I think Jenny Lawson’s memoir was the perfect pick for both categories. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things is a collection of pieces centered around mental illness, though Lawson goes far beyond this in terms of what she discusses. A series of anecdotes, most of them utterly ridiculous, Furiously Happy offers readers a snapshot of life from the perspective of someone suffering with mental illness: covering the good and the bad, and leaving us on a hopeful note.
Since this is an audiobook review, I suppose I should start by talking about the narration. The author narrated this audiobook herself, which was kind of awesome because it gives the person listening the opportunity to hear it exactly as it’s supposed to be read. In my opinion, Lawson’s voice adds something to the reading experience. It made me feel closer to her than I would have felt just reading about her life with my own internal narration.
Content-wise, I applaud this book for its unflinching honesty regarding mental illness. Jenny Lawson doesn’t hold back when discussing her own experiences – whether they be with anxiety, depression, or self-harm. Having suffered with anxiety and depression, though admittedly not to the extent she has, I found the descriptions incredibly easy to relate to. I often found myself nodding along with the recording, for better or for worse.
The humor displayed throughout this memoir is laugh out loud funny, though it probably takes a darker sense of humor to appreciate it. There are many people I can see not enjoying this book, though I guess Lawson’s right about her readers: It’s like finding your clan. I loved the outrageous tales and conversations that Lawson included, particularly those involving her polar opposite husband.
As much as I enjoyed the comedic parts of Furiously Happy (and I really enjoyed those), I appreciated the sparse moments of serious content even more. The quote I chose for the top of this post is an example of this, though as you can see, even Lawson’s serious passages are littered with a bit of humor. There is also a part where she discusses self-harm that left me cringing and wanting to pause the audiobook, which to me is a success. The uglier parts of mental illness are the ones that we’d rather avoid in conversation, but those are the same things we absolutely need to be talking about.
My only complaint for Furiously Happy was that I’d stop focusing at times, possibly because of the way Lawson’s stories jump from one place to the next so quickly. But I’m not going to throw the entire blame on her, as this was my first time listening to an audiobook – and I often tried multi-tasking while doing so.
I gave Furiously Happy four out of five stars on Goodreads. I really enjoyed listening to this, and I plan on reading Lawson’s previous book as soon as possible. Have you guys read this? What did you think?