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

No one makes me laugh to wheezing and tears the way Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) does. No one. I’ve never hidden that I’m a massive fan of Jenny Lawson’s work, and have been since I discovered her blog long enough ago I’d rather not say. Her humor hits me in all the funny bones so hard I worried I’d get kicked off a plane once for wheeze-laughing.

OF COURSE I have examples from the current book Broken (in the best possible way).

  • From the chapter Six Times I’ve Lost My Shoes While Wearing Them: A List that Shouldn’t Exist – “the bathroom emptied out, and when I went in my lone shoe was sitting on the sink and looking not nearly as ashamed of itself as it should have been.” It’s not funny because it’s a weird thing that happened to her, it’s funny because that sort of stuff happens to me all the time. I’m just not as good at writing about it as she is, and for that I’m SO grateful she writes these incidents down.
  • From the chapter All of the Reasons Why I’m Not Coming to Your Party – “I wonder if crabs think humans walk weird.” Me too, and that’s 100% something that is likely to pop out of my mouth when I’m nervous at a work function.
  • From the chapter That Time I Got Haunted by Lizards with Bike Horns – “I spent the rest of the day scrubbing butthole smears off every surface of the house.” I suppose I should add a warning about her wide variety of inappropriate subjects, but this is Lawson’s third book and you should know this already, honestly.

Broken is both an extension in the series of Lawson’s memoir humor works (starting with Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and then Furiously Happy) and a new journey. You don’t need to have read the first two (although honestly, if you haven’t you really should) to pick up Broken. Her latest stories include vignettes about looking for galoshes for a tiny dog that somehow morphed into asking a pharmacist for dog condoms, her experience with TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation, a treatment for depression and anxiety), requisite entertaining fights with Victor, and of course the occasional surprise taxidermy.

Lawson isn’t just a humorist, and Broken doesn’t only include mortifying moments and ridiculous situations that seem too weird to be true and yet too surreal NOT to be true. Her not-funny commentary on the health care system and the raw reality of dealing with persistent depression and anxiety is infuriating (on her behalf) and will make your heart ache. I cried more than once out of sheer sympathetic frustration or sadness. Her candid chapter blasting insurance treatment of depression and anxiety is one of the most powerful admonishments I’ve seen, and it’s delivered with compassion and understanding to anyone who is forced to deal with the red tape while trying to stay alive.

Lawson’s writing style is consistently a mix of “matter of fact” and matter of “wtf”. Her timing is on point for both comedic and serious impacts, usually leaving the reader with a “what just happened” feeling in the best possible sense. She relays these incidents in a way that is both horrifyingly funny and inclusive, and you can’t help but nod and empathize and realize she’s reflecting pieces of humanity we all share and just don’t talk about enough.

The unique combination of hilarious and horrible situations Jenny Lawson recounts in Broken are a window into her reality, and it’s a wild and unpredictable place to visit. Reading this made me glad I’ve never gone shopping for dog condoms, and reminded me that sometimes the best view of the wonders in this world is the “not normal” version. It also made my stomach muscles hurt from laughing so hard. This book is wonderful and cathartic and I can’t recommend it highly enough beyond go pick it up as soon as possible.

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