This book is great, y’all.
Sorry. I’ve been known to say ‘y’all’ on occasion (who knows why – I grew up on the west coast), and after listening to Ms. Lawson read her hilarious, sweet and bizarre memoir, I’ve incorporated it into my vocabulary once again. I can’t help it.
You might be familiar with Jenny Lawson but not know it. She is better known as The Bloggess, and she is a brilliant writer. She’s open, a fantastic storyteller, and able to make me laugh out loud, tear up, cringe, and feel nostalgic for my own (pretty different from her) childhood. Often in the same chapter.
Lawson grew up poor in West Texas. Like, bread sack shoes poor. Her father was a taxidermist and would do things like stick his hand up a dead squirrel and treat it like a puppet, or bring baby bobcats into the home to hang out. While the subtitle of the book says the memoir is “mostly” true, the reality is that most any chapter struck me as both completely ridiculous and totally plausible. Do I believe that she once had her arm up a cow’s vagina during animal husbandry class? Yes. Do I believe that they had raccoons as pets for a while? Yes.
The stories follow Lawson from childhood through adulthood, into married life. She is a mother, although only a couple of her stories deal directly with her in that role, and one of them is a doozy. In that chapter she talks in great detail about her miscarriages and attempts at having a child. I cannot imagine how devastating that was, but Lawson has such a tremendous way with words that I felt like I was hearing a friend describe it. It had me tearing up and wanting to give her and her husband a big hug.
One thing I really appreciated about this book is that there is a sensitivity that runs throughout it. The stories are mostly hilarious and guffaw-inducing, but there’s a rawness and reality behind them. It is vulnerability and self-reflection and strength all wrapped up together.
A couple of things to keep in mind before you run out to buy the paperback version (on the NY Times bestseller list now! First: There is a ton of cursing in this book. I don’t subscribe to the idea that cursing is offensive or lazy writing. I think the concept of someone saying ‘heck’ when their personality and feelings want them to say ‘fuck’ is ridiculous, unless you’re in church or possibly at work. If the author is thinking ‘fuck’, she should write it down. Clearly, Lawson is often thinking ‘fuck.’ And it works. It makes sense, it isn’t shocking, and it’s a hell of a lot less jarring than someone reacting to something utterly absurd with ‘dagnabbit’ instead of ‘holy shit.’
Second: PLEASE buy the audio version of this book. Lawson has a fantastic voice and amazing comic timing. Her delivery of the stories makes them all the funnier. The audio book also has the bonus chapter that is found in the paperback version, plus a good 10 minutes at the very end which is just her in the sound booth, offering up some fantastic ideas. And saying ‘vagina’ a lot.
This book is staying on my phone for multiple re-listenings, and it is going to get five stars, because it is awesome.