Furiously Happy Summary

Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy

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Furiously Happy Summary

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Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things is a humorous memoir written by blogger Jenny Lawson, published in September 2015 by Flatiron Books. Lawson is a writer and journalist who is most well known for her award-winning blog, The Bloggess. Whereas Lawson’s first book focused on her “functionally dysfunctional family,” Furiously Happy, her second, explores her challenges with mental illness, balancing humor and levity in equal measure. Having battled anxiety, “high-functioning” depression, and numerous other disorders for most of her life, Lawson wrote Furiously Happy to examine those experiences and share how they drove her to live life to the fullest, a nod to the book’s title.

In Lawson’s own words, Furiously Happy is “a funny book about living with mental illness.” Structurally, it’s a collection of emotional confessions and odd anecdotes, the latter of which often feature animals (such as Lawson’s tale about traveling to Australia to hug a koala). Many of the struggles and recollections recounted here are informed by Lawson’s notedly eccentric family (her father, a taxidermist, once sent her to school with a flock of turkeys; her mother often dressed Lawson and her sister in getups inspired by The Little House on the Prairie).

These offbeat, jumbled, and heart-rending essays—decidedly blog-like in their telling and execution—give Furiously Happy a jagged texture which reflects the theme of brokenness present throughout the book. Lawson’s descriptions of what it feels like to be overcome by depressive episodes are especially relatable: Language starts to recede, words don’t come, thoughts slip away too easily, and it feels as if the world will never come back into focus.

Lawson recognizes that many of her readers feel as broken as she does, and she invites them to join her quest to choose to be happy—not just mildly happy, but furiously so. Her memoir is ultimately about hanging on to sanity by your fingertips and fighting to reclaim life from the “monster of depression.” It’s a compendium on how to survive and even thrive in spite of an uncooperative brain.

Beyond that, Furiously Happy is also an examination of what it means to be human. In one particularly poignant moment, Lawson recounts being on a book tour in San Francisco, where groups of homeless men and women huddled on the streets. As she left her hotel, she was greeted by the hostile mutterings of strung out and “mentally ill” people. She felt a certain kinship with them, aware that only a very thin veil separates their lives from the life of the average tourist. They could be any one of us. We could be any one of them.

Lawson writes for an audience unafraid to question their own sanity and put it to the test, for those who live their lives in the negative spaces and who do not respond well to a steady course. She believes that storytelling helps encourage more stories by reassuring others that it’s OK to share their own experiences. Lawson believes that those suffering from depression have the ability for heightened emotion and might also be able to experience extreme joy and other positive states in a way that “normal people” can’t. This is the core tenant of the book.

And so Furiously Happy is as much an exploration of personal tragedy and mental illness as it is a celebration of the battles we win against life and “sometimes our very brains.” This is best represented by the stuffed raccoon, named Rory, on the book’s cover, who Lawson calls her own personal happiness coach. Depicted with a rictus grin and outstretched arms, Rory is a symbolic reminder that no matter how bad life gets, happiness is always a choice.

Lawson’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, was published in 2012 and debuted at number one on the New York Times best-seller list. Furiously Happy spent five months on the NYT top twenty best-seller list. Lawson published her third book, titled You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds, in 2017.