Back in October 2012, when I finally decided to see what all these Cannonballers were on about when they kept gushing about a strange-looking book with a taxidermied mouse on the cover, and gave in and read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I didn’t actually know who the Bloggess was. What a sad and empty place my life was up until that point. Once I actually read her first book, I also went out and bought it in audio book (She sings the chapter titles – it’s beyond delightful!) and now I check her blog at least a couple of times a week, often reading her posts out loud to my husband.
While I may have been sadly unaware of Jenny Lawson and her amazing writing back then, I have known about and anticipated her second books since it was first mentioned on her blog. While I think Ms. Lawson is wonderful when sharing funny anecdotes, cat pictures, strange polls, recounted arguments with her long-suffering husband Victor, craziness about taxidermy, what really truly speaks to me about her writing are the stories when she honestly talks about her depression, her anxiety and her other health problems. So the fact that this book was going to be about her mental illness made my expectations soar even higher.
I needn’t have worried that Ms. Lawson was going to let me down. Her first book was “laugh until your ribs hurt” funny in places and very very sad in others. This book (which I also got in audio and because of that, I got a bonus chapter – yay!) deals with the long list of ailments that Jenny Lawson suffers from, physical and mental. It covers a range of very serious issues and had me crying in sympathy in places, but I also laughed so much that people gave me funny looks as I was running errands or travelling on public transport. It’s a book that will shed a lot of valuable light on what it’s like to suffer from crippling depression, anxiety and the like and which can help those sharing the life of someone suffering similar things maybe understand a bit better. I can promise that while it gets really dark in places, which is especially affecting as this is NOT a work of fiction, but a very honest memoir – these things are Jenny Lawson’s life, the book is also stomach-achingly funny and follows a similar structure as her first book, with very serious topic followed by wonderfully absurd sections.
As well as talking honestly about her depression, rheumatoid arthritis, her social anxiety, her self esteem issues and the like, Ms. Lawson shares tales of going to Japan and Australia, life lessons from her dad, the story of Rory the raccoon (who’s on the cover), many many arguments she’s had with Victor and generously gives the reader the appendix to the book in the middle, because why would you want to put that stuff at the end?
In chapter 31, where she talks about nearly being attacked by a possum by her pool (there are a lot of possums in this book), she claims that she would much rather be attacked by baby penguins, because they aren’t even vaguely scary. Just in case Ms. Lawson ever reads this review – I was bitten by a baby penguin at a zoo in Sweden when I was little. They may seem cute and fluffy and oh so harmless, but they have vicious, scissor-like beaks and I bled profusely. The lessons she learned about swans should be applied to penguins as well, just saying.
If you liked her first book, buy this. If you haven’t read her first book, buy and read that first, then get this one. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, get this book. If you know anyone or suspect you may know someone who suffers from these things, get this book. With so many books I read, I want to quote Bernard Black from the extremely funny TV show Black Books: “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life.” In the case of Jenny Lawson’s books, it’s all too true. Her first book was spectacular, this one is even better. Why are you not reading/listening to it right now?
Crossposted on my blog.