I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
Published: Berkley Trade Paperback (2012), Paperback, 384pg
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.
In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives. (from Amazon)
I’m not a subscriber to Jenny Lawson’s blog (The Blogess), though I don’t really know WHY I’m not. Anyway, when her memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was first released last year I thought it might be something I’d like to read. I visited her blog, read about twenty posts, put the book on my wishlist and then forgot about it (as happens all too frequently with me). However, the paperback is coming out this month1, and when a nice person at Berkley Books offered me a copy to review– I jumped at it!
Wouldn’t you? I mean, Jenny Lawson is FUNNY. I don’t think I’ve laughed this much while reading a book since the first time I read one of David Sedaris’s books. It’s got that same sort of absurd, situational humor that comes from living with weird people. JL’s father, for example, spends most of the book terrorizing his children with dead animal puppets and whatnot. Out of context: scary! In context, through the lens of JL’s writing: hilarious! (And a bit scary.)
Her writing is what really made this book a great read for me. It’s friendly and open and personable. Instead of using her humor as a shield, to shove people away while making them laugh, she uses it in a “hey, look at this and isn’t it funny?” kind of way. With a bit of “I KNOW THIS IS WEIRD please like me anyway” on the side. Reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened made me feel like I was making a fun new friend– one with interesting childhood stories and strange collections.2
There’s a good balance of humor and instrospection in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Sometimes memoirs go too far in one or the other direction, and then they’re either terrible boring or way too soppy. Not here! It’s funny to the MAX but the humor is balanced out with other stuff, too. Other stuff like EMOTIONS! The chapter(s) where JL gets pregnant sticks particularly in my mind.
By the time she get pregnant she’s had several miscarriages, and she’s taking daily shots to help this pregnancy get all the way to the end. She’s brusied and terrified and it’s a very tense chapter, emotionally. However, there’s still that welcoming humor. I was afraid for her (and her baby), but I was also laughing (in a good way). I appreciated that JL was so open about her troubles but that, at the same time, the book didn’t veer off into non-comedy territory. The best sort of humor comes from turning around bleak situations, I think. And it takes a master writer to be able to pull that off multiple times, as is the case in this book.
By the end of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I’d become a firm Jenny Lawson fan, and I can’t wait to read whatever else she writes. I think I’ll start by subscribing to her blog.
Read: February 26-27, 2013
Jenny Lawson is going on tour again for the paperback! Check out the info/dates/etc. here at her blog.
Here is an interesting semi-related post about reader reviews and authors, written by one of JL’s friends:
Once you’ve published something, you’re done. You can’t defend it. You can’t make someone like you. There is nothing you can do once a reader has reached his or her own conclusions. All you will feel from those reviews is awful. You may even feel bad about the five-star reviews, if you think they’re misinterpreting you. All it takes is one review that reads “I hate the Irish, too! Thumbs up, Jenny!” and you’re re-reading your entire book and wondering where you went wrong.