Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson

 I first heard about this book through Rachel Held Evans’ Sunday Superlatives and then it turned out to be front and centre of every book shop I walked past for the next two months.  So … I bought. On a semi-serious note, I have reviewed how big my To Be Read Pile is now and I am no longer entering branches of Waterstones.  Still, there are only two more weeks of the summer holidays to go and I am making the most of the spare time I have left …

Jenny Lawson is a blogger … technically based off this thing you would think that I am too but I prefer to think of myself as someone who just has opinions which she likes to broadcast in public places.  I don’t really like the word blog possibly because I’m an English student who doesn’t like made up words but it’s more because I’m myself and certain words irritate me for no real reason.  Like how I don’t like picnics – I enjoy the activity, I just wish it was called something different.  Turns of phrase that annoy me can stick in my mind for years … actually now I’m starting to sound like Jenny Lawson.

Jenny Lawson blogs about her own very individualistic take on the world.  As a health warning – this is not a book to read in public.  I read in during my Travelling stage of my summer holiday, it’s not just a book to make you laugh quietly or internally – I had to take some deep breaths and think about sad events from my past to make myself presentable again.  Actually, even at home it was a problem – I was actually staying with my grandmother while reading this book and she asked to take a look to see why I was giggling so much.  Lawson does bring up her vagina at regular intervals … it was worse than when I was seventeen and my grandmother asked to borrow my copy of High Fidelity and gave it back very shocked to discover I now read books where the characters had sex.  Oops.

What is this book about?  Lawson – actually, let’s just call her Jenny, she keeps things fairly informal, she won’t mind – anyway, she tells the story of her life through the embarrassing/horrendous stories that have punctuated her life.  To be honest, an ordinary woman could have got a misery memoir out of all this but luckily Jenny is no ordinary woman.  She flits past her childhood poverty, issues with drugs and anorexia, multiple miscarriages, anxiety disorders and degenerative arthritis and focuses on the funny … I am a great believer in getting through the tough times with humour but Jenny takes it to a whole new level.  You’re half caught by how inappropriate some of these revelations are and thinking how patient her husband is, but then realising what a courageous woman she really is.  

Jenny has realised that after all, if you don’t laugh, you cry and that’s really no fun at all … except when it’s necessary and then if you are very blessed you will have good friends to listen and help you and in the case of Jenny, drive round to your house and help you exhume the remains of your recently deceased dog because she hadn’t dug it deep enough to stop actual vultures trying to dig it up to eat it. When you have friends who will help you do that, you know you’re doing something right in your life.

This is a biography written in hyperbole, it’s subtitled ‘A Mostly True Memoir’ which is good because it allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.  Jenny grew up with a taxidermist father and aged four she once accidentally ran into the corpse of a deer while playing tag, as a small child her father made a glove puppet out of a dead squirrel and convinced Jenny and her sister that the squirrel could talk.  Jenny skipped on, became the only Goth girl in her high school, met her husband Victor in a witchcraft store, got married aged twenty-two, went into HR, and after a lot of personal difficulties which she stoically neither plays down nor exaggerates, she has a baby and swore that her child would have a nice clean childhood … but then realised that she was robbing Hailey of the experiences that would make her a stronger person.  So Jenny and Victor moved back to rural Texas.  And Jenny also starts collecting stuffed animals, generally those who come with a whimsical period costume.

I loved the moral of this book … your life may not pan out as you might have chosen, but we are the richer in ourselves for the quirks and the unexpected which makes us who we are.  It gave me hope for my own family, the past few years have not been easy but in remembering to laugh and to rejoice in the absurd, it’s incredibly cathartic to laugh at the world around and to know that there are other people out there to laugh with you.  

There may be some people who might say that with the swearing and the vagina references, Jenny Lawson had crossed over to poor taste … I say there may and I know it for sure (I can think of a few myself) but they are missing her point which is a good one – life is rarely easy, we might choose to avoid the difficult patches but we shouldn’t.  We aren’t supposed to and we shouldn’t want to.  The humanity behind all of the humour in this book is what really makes it such an excellent read, even when you’re laughing so hard that it hurts while simultaneously feeling slightly worried in case it’s ok to laugh at a subject so serious, Jenny is grateful for all of her experiences which have made her into the person she is today, happy.

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Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Published by Amy Einhorn: Putnam on April 17th 2012
Pages: 318
ISBN: 0399159010

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3 thoughts on “Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson

  1. Yes – she does make everyday things like going to work such an odyssey and sidesplittingly funny … I liked this book, although you're right that some parts were strange, she keeps the reader with her all the way through. Thanks for commenting!

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