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Blogger's second book irreverent, illuminating

The Book Beat: Exploring the funny side of mental illness

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This week’s read

“Furiously Happy,” the second book by journalist, author and blogger Jenny Lawson, aims to do what many books will never try to do.

Throughout the book, Lawson, a sufferer of OCD, ADD, depression and an anxiety disorder, makes strides to illustrate her attempts to be “furiously happy” in response to her depression.

In fact, the premise of this book originated from a posting on her blog, The Bloggess. The result is a sometimes-nonsensical — and equal parts funny and poignant — memoir that is sure to leave an impression.

Many people will be drawn to this book by its cover, which features a stiff raccoon donning a psychotic smile, surrounded by confetti and a gold background. The book itself starts out with the chapter “A Series of Unfortunate Disclaimers,” signaling that there will be more than a little author self-deprecation.

For example, when Lawson takes time out to describe a fight she had with her husband because she did not notice he left the room, these moments are funny.

At other times, though, when she argues with her mother about how her mental illness makes her more “crazy” than “sensitive” and “odd,” the self-deprecation is extremely effective at putting the reader in her shoes, giving an albeit minimal glimpse of the difficulty those living with mental illness experience in trying to explain their situation to others.

“Furiously Happy” consists of 43 short chapters, as well as an introduction and an epilogue. The chapter titles, from “I’m not Psychotic. I Just Need to Get in Front of You in Line” to “Death by Swans Is Not as Glamorous as You’d Expect,” are designed to make the reader laugh, and the technique works because the chapters themselves are humorous.

Other chapters, like “Pretend You’re Good at It” and “It Might Be Easier. But It Wouldn’t Be Better.,” are an effective warning to the reader that there is more serious content ahead, so he or she might want to read a bit more thoughtfully. There are also photographs interspersed throughout the book, each one providing hilarious context to the words written around it.

Lawson makes one thing abundantly clear throughout her book: The constant support she receives from her family and others around her have a profound impact on her ability to live life in spite of the extreme mental difficulties she faces.

Her husband Victor exhibits the patience of a Buddhist monk in bringing Lawson back to reality when she begins to go off on tangents, and her daughter Haley shows nothing but encouragement when her mother ventures out to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Lawson also realizes that she’s returned the favor to others, and she closes her book by discussing the 24 letters she’s received from fans who are still alive today because she’s been so open with her daily struggles.

They know they are not alone.