Reviews

‘Furiously Happy’: a hilarious, emotional look at mental illness and taxidermy raccoons

June 6, 2022

TITLE: Furiously Happy
AUTHOR: Jenny Lawson
GENRE: Nonfic/Humor
AGE RANGE: Adult
PAGES: 329pg
PUBLISHER: Flatiron Books

In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:

“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”

Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family—and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy—and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?

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Like my grandmother always said, “Your opinions are valid and important. Unless it’s some stupid bullshit you’re being shitty about, in which case you can just go fuck yourself.”

I genuinely don’t have words for how much I adored this book, or how grateful I am to have finally read it. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for years, and finally did after making a deal with my mother (she would read Finlay Donovan Is Killing It if I would read this — we’ve both been very happy with this deal’s outcomes), and honestly, Mom, thank you for harassing me endlessly to read this. You were right. I loved every single page.

Without the dark there isn’t light. Without the pain there is no relief. And I remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to feel such great sorrow, and also such great happiness. I can grab on to each moment of joy and live in those moments because I have seen the bright contrast from dark to light and back again. I am privileged to be able to recognize that the sound of laughter is a blessing and a song, and to realize that the bright hours spent with my family and friends are extraordinary treasures to be saved, because those same moments are a medicine, a balm. Those moments are 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.

I don’t think any book has ever made me laugh so hard, but I also don’t think any book I’ve ever read has captured mental illness and chronic illness/pain so well. There were chapters in this book that hit me so hard, I had to pause my audiobook and go do something else for a while to give myself a chance to recover, because there’s something painful in the best way about listening to someone say all the things you never quite have the words for, like how unfair it is that depression is a chronic illness nobody ever congratulates you for surviving, or how bullshit it is that our society treats mental health medications with so much hostility and skepticism despite the fact that we would never look down on someone for taking medications for, say, migraines, or arthritis, or cancer. I could rant for a long time, but honestly, just read this book, because Jenny says it all so much more eloquently than I could.

“Surprise, motherfucker, there’s a dead raccoon in your bed and he wants a snugglin’!”

But alongside all of the heavy topics, this book is just a damn delight from start to finish. Maybe part of it is because Jenny reminds me so much of myself in the ways she looks at the world and how her thought processes work (ADHD brains unite!), but I laughed until I cried at least three times, and two of those times were probably related to her incredible taxidermy animal stories.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go grab audio copies of her other books… and maybe look into pricing a taxidermy raccoon.

content warnings →
WARNINGS:

discussions of mental and physical illnesses, internalized ableism (and the process of working through it), discussions of therapy and mental health medications, descriptions of taxidermy animals, mentions of self-harm

representation →

Jenny has ADHD, multiple physical conditions (including rheumatoid arthritis), and multiple mental illnesses (including but not limited to depression, anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, OCD, trichotillomania, suicidal ideation, and self-harm)

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7 Comments

  • Reply jordyn June 6, 2022 at 10:42 am

    I can’t recommend Jenny’s other books enough!!!! The last one was extremely hard to read for me, but I love her writing so much I pushed through it. (It triggered me a little.) Furiously Happy is definitely my favorite of her books. I also recommend following her blog, if you aren’t already: https://thebloggess.com/ Great review!!

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries June 6, 2022 at 11:18 pm

      Thank you so much! No, I didn’t realize her blog was still active – this is fantastic news! I’m going to go follow her right now! And I’m sorry her latest book triggered you, but glad that you were able to enjoy it regardless. Sending hugs ♥

      • Reply jordyn June 7, 2022 at 8:37 am

        <3 She's still very active on her blog, and on twitter, actually!

  • Reply My Week In Books 5/30 – 6/5 – Misty's Book Space June 6, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    […] this book. Next up I finished Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel which I was buddy reading with Destiny. Overall, I did like this one, but I was left a little disappointed because I was expecting it to […]

  • Reply Tammy June 6, 2022 at 10:22 pm

    I would love to read this, it sounds like a brilliant combo of humor and thoughtful insight😁

    • Reply Destiny @ Howling Libraries June 6, 2022 at 11:18 pm

      That’s the perfect description for it, Tammy! I hope you like it if you do read it! 😀

  • Reply Kal @ Reader Voracious July 3, 2022 at 11:01 am

    Oh wow, this book sounds fantastic. I don’t know why I decided ages ago not to read it because apparently THAT part of the memory wasn’t important for my brain to keep (wtf lol), but Past Kal was wrong. The parts you mentioned about mental illness hit me and I think this will really resonate. Great review!

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