I would like to start by saying that I would have given this book five stars, but I think the very real possibility of breaking a rib laughing demands that I drop it down to four stars.
If you’re familiar at all with Jenny Lawsons’s blog you will be (somewhat) prepared for what lies inside her memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Those of you unfamiliar with her blog might want to check out the book trailer.
In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny walks us through her childhood years, growing up poor in rural Texas (breadsack-shoe poor, apparently), taking us through high school (where she got her arm stuck in a cow’s vagina) all the way up to the now-infamous incident with Beyoncé the giant metal chicken.
You might think I’m spoiling the book for you, but I’m really not. It’s not as funny when I write it, because there is something more open and honest in Jenny’s writing than any review can capture. She is willing to look back on her life—even the events that mortify her and make her want to hide under the kitchen table—and go digging for the silver lining that she knows is hiding in there somewhere. And if she breaks a few nails along the way? No big deal.
In looking back on her unusual childhood, Jenny shows a kindness and an understanding of her parents’ position that is sweet and touching (and likely the product of therapy), yet is beautifully twinned with the hurt of the child and her subsequent vindictiveness and desire for petty revenge.
Furthermore, Jenny is extremely candid about her experiences with depression, anxiety disorders, and anorexia. She walks us through her thought processes, showing us exactly what it’s like to function with an anxiety disorder and how draining it is. Yet she never seems to give in. Even at the worst times, Jenny keeps on going with a crazy laugh and her head held high. To see someone with her influence tackle these serious illnesses head-on, and talking about mental illness like she’s just getting over a bout of the flu is not only refreshing, but also inspiring for its normalization of these conditions which are largely invisible and still considered shameful by many.
Carefully selected photos punctuate the memoir, as do phone conversations, post-it notes, and arguments with her husband Victor. That said, I think my favorite part of the book were the editor’s notes, which might actually be editor’s notes or they might just be Jenny pretending to be her editor (because I feel like that is something she would probably do).
The best part about this book is not how hard I laughed, or how broken Jenny is, but how happy she manages to be in spite of it. It’s like she’s saying to all of us that you are allowed to be broken and that being broken doesn’t have to stop you from being happy. It is also perfectly okay if you sometimes need to hide behind the curtains; you’re in good company.