Book Review: Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

Lawson is back again with her humorous and poignant observations about life, mental health, and life in rural Texas.


SYNOPSIS

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened comes a deeply relatable book filled with humor and honesty about depression and anxiety.

As Jenny Lawson’s hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In Broken, Jenny brings readers along on her mental and physical health journey, offering heartbreaking and hilarious anecdotes along the way.

With people experiencing anxiety and depression now more than ever, Jenny humanizes what we all face in an all-too-real way, reassuring us that we’re not alone and making us laugh while doing it. From the business ideas that she wants to pitch to Shark Tank to the reason why Jenny can never go back to the post office, Broken leaves nothing to the imagination in the most satisfying way. And of course, Jenny’s long-suffering husband Victor―the Ricky to Jenny’s Lucille Ball―is present throughout.

A treat for Jenny Lawson’s already existing fans, and destined to convert new ones, Broken is a beacon of hope and a wellspring of laughter when we all need it most. from Goodreads

A woman in a red dress is holding a four legged monster that is eating flowers.

MY THOUGHTS

My first Jenny Lawson book was Furiously Happy back in 2018. That was a hard year for me, personally, and I was grabbed by the ridiculously happy raccoon on the cover. It did not dissapoint.

“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”

Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy

I loved that she was focusing on how to find the extreme joy in her life since I had lost sight of that myself. It was a masterclass in dealing with chronic problems and insisting on seeing finding ways to be happy when you could. I laughed and laughed at her stories about taxidermy and her life and I sighed and recognized so many things she said about dealing with….well, life.

I do not have any diagnosed mental illness. I worry about things and sometimes I am sad but never enough to impact the decisions I make in my day. Maybe if I could find access to a counselor they would diagnose me with something. I know that I have a chronic illness that likes to rear its ugly head and make my life difficult. But, right now, I won’t water down the experiences of those who genuinely struggle with mental health by claiming that I am walking the same path. Because after finishing Broken (in the best possible way), I am in awe.

When I look at the cover of Furiously Happy I remember laughing so hard I deemed that audiobook not safe for driving. When I see the cover of Broken I sigh and push a silent pray out to anyone and everyone with depression. Lawson’s frank and extensive discussions about how depression affects her made well and truly sad for her. I felt like I knew, I don’t know, a little bit? But, there is no societal comprehension or ongoing conversation about how bad depression sucks. If you are one of those, “exercise more” or “nature is the cure,” then you should absolutely read this book. Dismissing chronic illnesses just because you don’t experience them is just as disgusting as saying racism doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened to you.

This book made my heart hurt for all of the people out there whose brains are trying to trick them into believing the worst. I am sitting here, picturing all of their faces with Jenny’s words explaining the day-to-day life of someone with depression and….I just cannot shake how sad that makes me. If Furiously Happy had a soundtrack, it would feature Sabre Dance. If Broken put out a single, it would be In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan.

To be fair, there are some funny stories in here. There are interactions with Victor, and chats about cocks with a neighbor, and uproarious conversations with girlfriends. All of those breaks for levity are present and accounted for in this book. To be honest though, they didn’t make me laugh as hard as I did before. I felt like I was flipping back and forth between two entirely different books. One about the ludicrousness of life and one about the depths of depression and chronic illness. I had trouble shifting gears. Was it because the funny stories felt a little forced? Or because I was having my own issues? I truly don’t know.

Beyond a deeper understand of chronic depression, there were two other stand out moments in this book for me. And, if you learn nothing about depression you might learn about fighting an insurance company or working with editors. Jenny’s chapter about fighting with her insurance company for necessary coverage hit home with me as they are my own personal windmills. I despise insurance companies. If you are not going to read her book or her open letter shaming her insurance company, please do check out this link where Everyday Health interviews Jenny. It is worth it.

And, for anyone out there who is writing a book, the chapter about editors is a smash hit. This whole chapter could be expanded into a one-woman show and I would probably watch it forever. I was fascinated by the role of the editor and uproariously thrilled with Jenny’s mistakes in English. You know, the ones I make all of the time here on SilverButtonBooks. Editors are superheroes.

My biggest issue with this book is that it felt a bit forced. Her stream of consciousness about rainy days and broken things felt….off. In the same way that some of humor felt frantic, some of the ruminating on depression didn’t ring true. Perhaps the author was flexing new writing muscles and, that is certainly her prerogative. But there were whole chapters that felt as though they belonged to a different book.

I didn’t love this book as much as Furiously Happy but there were so many times I felt that she was making essential points. For that, this book is a must read.


Tell me, please! What is the best book you have read about mental health?


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