Review: Furiously Happy

Buy this book!

Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess
Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess

Now I’ll tell you why.

First, despite what I wrote a previous post, Seven Reasons I Hate the Bloggess (, I really respect and admire her and her writing.

Second, Furiously Happy is every bit as funny as Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s first book. It’s as raucous and uninhibited as her wildly popular blog.

Third, it’s something more.

Oh, there’s still plenty of weird taxidermy, ridiculous fights with her husband Victor, and even a bizarre travelogue of her trip to Australia. (She was not allowed to cuddle a koala, even when she dressed in a full-body koala suit, but consoled herself with the knowledge that koalas have chlamydia.)

But threaded through  her comic, idiosyncratic prose is a serious message about mental health: that we should speak up about it; acknowledge our struggles; and be determinedly, exuberantly, furiously happy when we can, in defiance of our illnesses.

Furiously Happy is a book for the millions of Americans – one in four – who struggle with mental illness, and for the millions more of their families, loved ones, and friends. It entertains and educates and defies the stigma that surrounds mental illness, without being preachy or mired in statistics.

Lawson has heard from people who have made it only as far as the parking lot of her signings because they too have severe anxiety disorders. Others have driven as much as five hours to attend one of her appearances. In her blog ( and her new book, she lets people know that we are “alone together,” that even if we’re broken, we still have the capacity for magic.

At a recent book signing, Lawson was visibly nervous when she read two chapters aloud. One of these chapters was the one in which she and her mother discuss what is crazy and whether Jenny is. During the Q&A session at the signing, she took care to make the point that mental illness need not prevent people from being, as she says, furiously happy – if they keep on struggling, fighting, and trying, and especially if they have people around who understand and help.

After that she signed her book and anything else the audience brought until the entire group – which was quite large – was satisfied. No one was turned away from the signing line.

Lawson’s writing is not for everyone. Some people will be turned off by her use of profanity, and perhaps others may not appreciate the serious message that this second book contains. However, if you are looking for more rollicking, uninhibited, and unlikely (though largely true) stories, you will certainly find them here. But if that’s all you want, you may prefer to skip the serious chapters.

On the other hand, if you want to learn about mental illness with its attendant difficulties, and why it is so important to bring these topics out of the closet, as it were, then you may find the storytelling ridiculous, irreverent, or distracting. Personally, I enjoy the whole package, and it’s clear that many others do too.

Actually, the book hardly needs my endorsement. It’s been on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks now, and her book tour is drawing large and enthusiastic crowds. But I’ll recommend it anyway. You can start with her first book and find yourself drawn into the other. Or vice-versa.

You should also check out her blog, both for the content and the commenters, many of whom have found in Jenny an inspiration and in the other commenters a like-minded group of self-admitted weirdos, social outcasts, and yes, the mentally ill. That’s really been Lawson’s message all along. She just states it a little more directly in Furiously Happy.

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