Top critical review
Radishes with Furiously Happy Raccoons
January 4, 2016
With a bright gold sparkling cover featuring a deranged looking raccoon, Furiously Happy drew me in. When I was younger I had a phase which included David Sedaris and a plethora of Augusten Burroughs memoirs. So when I saw this book, another comedic life tale, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Furiously Happy is a series of stories and personal essays from author Jenny Lawson: a woman living with mental illness and being furiously happy anyway.
I expected Furiously Happy to be a narrative from A to B cataloging Jenny’s life with little scatterings of comedic delivery. I quickly learned to expect the unexpected. The stories she tells range from a hilarious fight she had with her husband, to personal anecdotes on the difficulty of living with mental illness. Oh, and she goes to Australia and sees kangaroos… while dressed as a kangaroo. So suffice to say there's a lot of variety in the stories.
Jenny is frank about her struggles with mental illness, while addressing a lot of the misconceptions people may have. What I respect about the book is how honest she is about her personal experiences. She admits that sometimes she has to hide inside because of her anxiety, or that she has events of self-harm. What impresses me is that she could share these serious moments and then on the next page have you snorting with laughter. She does a great job at addressing mental illness while staying true to the comedic theme.
Even though this is likely more to protect herself than anything, Jenny also made it clear that her experience is not everyone’s experience. But sharing her own stories empowered people to say “me too” and share their own story, and so on, and so on. Rather than simply inspiring people with her life, she’s inspiring people to form a community of people to be inspired by. And that’s no easy task.
The stories varied, which you might expect would keep you from getting bored. But I still felt that there was occasionally a lull. Some stories would have me laughing out loud, and with others I sped through to get to the next one. I know people with mental illness, but I don’t have any (diagnosed) myself. This made it hard for me to relate to some of the stories that might be inspiring to other readers. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t bother reading the book if you don’t have a mental illness! I’m only acknowledging that this might make it harder to relate to some of Jenny’s experiences. But not all! I can definitely relate to embarrassing myself on a semi-regular basis...
It’s great to see a book that talks so openly about mental illness and draws attention to misconceptions people have about it. I laughed a lot during this book, but then I finished and that was it. I didn’t feel compelled to read Jenny’s other book, nor was I particularly moved. However, I don’t have a mental illness, so I couldn’t relate to a lot of the issues Jenny brought up. I suspect the experience would be different otherwise. Either way, I would recommend this book. It’s wickedly funny, Jenny Lawson's life is so worth reading about!
Read more reviews at my website Lunch-Time Librarian @ http://ltlibrarian.com