Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson is a self-described mostly-true memoir whose title is begging to be left on the shelf, and reader, I suggest you do exactly that. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments, and I use the word moment pretty loosely. It’s more like she accidentally strung a few genuinely funny words together after trying so desperately to prove to us all that she is just so weird, so funny, and so unique. There is an attempt at self-deprecation that any comedian or humorist can appreciate, but rather than really digging into the struggles of her mental illness, it’s a punchline. I hesitated to write a review that was scathing or mean in any way, but also, I’m working on being honest and not sugar coating things. And as a depression and anxiety survivor myself, the truth about these illnesses is important. Over and over, the punchline is that she has myriad mental illnesses, anxiety among them, and this makes everything hard. And somehow, we’re supposed to believe this is funny because of how it manifests in her life. There was a disconnect for me that I couldn’t get through. Perhaps because I was listening to the audiobook, read by the author, and I imagined sitting in a café with her vomiting her daily struggles as funny quirks while I kept turning to look at the door for a way out of the conversation.
I think there is a way to tell these stories well, with self-compassion and a little self-deprecation mixed in, while focusing on how important it is to properly deal with mental illness and to destigmatize it. I do not think this memoir is that way. It’s one I would have put down early except for my hope that somehow, eventually, it would turn itself around. I was looking for the redemption in the epilogue, but it never came. I admit I chuckled in the beginning and I was hopeful. The prologue made me think I would be friends with this person. Perhaps it was this early promise of kindred spirits that left me so disappointed. She promised to offend everyone, and she mostly kept that promise. Eventually it became tiresome to see in what new way she would offend, as it didn’t seem to follow any particular belief system or bi-product of a mental illness she was working through, just a mechanism to prove she was funny and weird.
Again, there were a few nice moments. There is a heartbreaking chapter where Jenny discusses her multiple miscarriages and struggles with a rare disorder that was causing them. There is also a delightful chapter about the world of HR. Had the book expanded on either of these topics in the tone and grace with which these topics were covered, the whole thing may have been worth the time to read it. As it is, however, these are just two tiny bright spots that highlight the annoyingness of the rest of the book. She pushes so hard to get us to believe that her family is the weirdest family and that her thoughts are the weirdest thoughts, the rest of us don’t even have a chance. So yeah, Jenny Lawson, I agree: let’s pretend this book never happened.