Jenny Lawson has a strange brain. Some readers may be familiar with her odd thoughts and worries, as she has been a popular blogger for years at The Bloggess. After listening to her narrate her first memoir, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, I imagine that her life and the lives of her family are surreal, often panicked, but very funny and pro-“let your freak flag fly.” I laughed at so many of Lawson’s unexpectedly hilarious observations and experiences as a child and woman in west Texas.
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened covers the first 30-odd years of Lawson’s life. She grew up in Wall, Texas with a deeply practical mother and a taxidermist father who has a warped sense of humor and rarely gives a thought to normalcy or safety. (One of my favorite parts of the book is a scene in which Lawson’s father tosses a bobcat at her then-fiancé, Victor.) Lawson’s childhood and her severe anxiety disorder goes a long way to explaining the person she is now, with her weird catastrophizing and seemingly-illogical conversations with her husband and friends. Because Lawson narrates the audiobook version of her memoir, this book felt like having Lawson riding along in my car as I drove home from a weekend visiting with my own off-the-wall, funny family*.
Lawson’s memoir covers the highs and lows of her life until she found unexpected success as a blogger. (Because who expects to be a successful blogger?) She never shies away from talking about her mental illness or her miscarriages or the many times she publicly embarrasses herself. She also doesn’t shy away from conversations she has with her apparently long suffering husband. There are a few scenes that explain why the two are still together (the popcorn fight and riffing are great), but mostly Victor comes off as the one who has to put up with a wife who is firmly convinced by her anxiety-driven thoughts. I can see other readers being put off by this—because Lawson’s chains of thought can be exhausting—but for readers like me, who also have an anxiety disorder, I identified strongly with her spiraling, panicky thoughts. My thoughts never get as weird as Lawson’s, but I completely understand how easy it can be to convince yourself that you are ruining everything and that everyone else thinks you’re a weirdo as soon as you open your mouth to talk about whatever is rattling around in your brain.
Though I ended up listening to this book in large sessions (it’s a long way between where my parents live and I live), but I think it might work best in small doses. Lawson’s brain is sometimes strong stuff. There is also a lot of content reworked from her blog; this book is highly episodic. A chapter or two at a time is probably the best amount for fully enjoying this book without getting worn out by Lawson’s stream of consciousness. That said, this book is incredibly funny. It’s not just silly or full of punchlines—although this book is both—it also has a lot of the surreal, unexpected humor that I love very much, but find hard to find. I am very much looking forward to reading to Lawson’s second book, Furiously Happy.
* Our family always plays Scrabble—with a one drink minimum for my mother and I so that the rest of the family has a fair shot at winning. This weekend, we discovered that playing Trivial Pursuit/Charades with a one drink minimum is even better. (The charades were necessary because it seems like my nephew learned all his history from Futurama.)
Notes for bibliotherapeutic use: Recommend to readers who have anxiety disorders or readers who have an anxious person in their lives and wish to better understand them.