Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

I will preface this review by saying that this book is probably the funniest book I have ever read and that it is the only book I can remember laughing all the way through.

Several days ago, I don’t remember exactly when because my concept of time here is completely distorted, another woman down the hall from me was cleaning out her room and working to get rid of a bunch of stuff. So I stood there awkwardly in the hallway as we spoke about a random selection of things. Eventually, she gave me a box filled with things like glow-sticks, a fourth of July tie, some Cheez-Its, Jalapeno flavored beef jerky (which sounded gross to me), Cranberry lotion for my super cracked hands, and some books.

As she continued to pile random stuff on the already over-flowing box of stuff, I asked her about a book she had recommended to me about a month ago. Of course I didn’t write down the title or the author at the time because she mentioned it in passing when I, being the terrible writer I sometimes am, had nothing to write with or on. She then searched through the box of books she intends on keeping and found Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) (non-fiction 363 pages) by Jenny Lawson.

“When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the human in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it. In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments – the ones we want to pretend never happened – are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought that they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.”

I think it’s very fitting that the copy of this book that I’m borrowing is … a little abused. It’s got the crinkly pages that indicate it might have been exposed to the elements, including a few pages with darker marks that look like water stains. The back cover has indents all over it and this book is obviously not fresh off the shelf.

I think that’s what makes it so much better.

This book is an example of how following all of the rules would have never worked to write this story, nor would it have worked to make this story the hilarious memoir that it is. There are run-on sentences, bad grammar, occasional words that may or may not actually exist, foul language, and a variety of “inappropriate” things that we’ve all been taught are deeply concerning topics that you just don’t talk about. Or really even think about. And yet, this book is written in such a way that I read the whole thing in a day and would have read it even faster if I didn’t have that pesky thing called “work” that I have to do every now and then to make sure I can live someplace nicer than a cardboard box.

The book I borrowed is the mass market paperback version, which has an extra chapter at the end which are excerpts from Jenny Lawson’s book tour. The back of the book also contains a list of discussion questions, which were somewhere between hilarious and awkwardly accurate. Which is a term that can absolutely be used to describe my thoughts on this book, as well.

What is it about this book that I found so hilarious? Hm. I think it’s because this book was honest in a way that I’ve never seen a book about mental illness be honest before. My brain goes on some very, very anomalous tangents and I am definitely of the opinion that my brain is not wired the way most normal people’s brains are wired. So all of the honesty in this book is absolutely stuff I could see my own brain coming up with. There were also a lot of parts of this book where I was reminded of my Adventure Buddy from two years ago. I think my Adventure Buddy has social anxiety on a level very much like this and in some ways, this book made me reminisce about the way things used to be and how ridiculous it was when Adventure Buddy was in my kitchen for the very first time and asked me where I kept my clean dishes and when I said I used the dishwasher as a drying rack for the clean dishes, Adventure Buddy then opened up the stove. Or that time I was cooking soup out of a can for the first time ever, which just happened to be when we were travelling in a foreign country and the stove there was lopsided and awkward, and I asked if I was really supposed to stick my finger into the boiling water to tell if the soup was hot enough. Or how I was driving us somewhere and not doing a very good job of it and Adventure Buddy said that if I killed us, she was totally coming back to haunt me, to which I replied that if I killed us, we would both be dead and she wouldn’t be able to haunt anyone. Or that time I was in the hospital after I’d broken my ankle in two places across the joint by playing in a tiny and ridiculous waterfall and how sometimes I would comment about how I didn’t know why my ankle hurt, to which the response was almost always a ridiculous look and a comment of, “you broke your fucking leg.”

Those are just a small fraction of the ridiculous and hilarious memories that were brought up when I was reading this book. And it some ways, it made me kind of sad. Because I had a friendship like that and then things went badly and I made some very human mistakes and we’re not on speaking terms anymore. I miss my friend. I miss laughing on the couch while watching Will Smith do a flaming tassel dance during the Wild Wild West. I miss laughing in the rain after being cold and miserable from going to get us food and having her just look at me with angry eyes and raising her fist and saying, “revenge”. I miss laughing and being laughed at. I miss learning new things. She taught me more than I think I’ve ever learned in my life.

There was a passage on page 117 that really hit me hard: “He quietly said (as if to himself) that the memories of the places we’d been before were always more golden-tinted in retrospect than they had ever been at the time, and I nodded, surprised that he’d known more than he let on.” I wonder sometimes if I’m only remembering the good parts from the last two years while Adventure Buddy only remembers the bad parts. I wonder sometimes if there’s any way to mend a broken friendship. But even if there’s not, I still have a lot of memories that make me smile and I laugh all the time at how oblivious I am/was to the world around me.

I think I laughed through so much of this book because I have already learned to laugh through the hard parts of life. I’ve already learned how to make zombie-jesus jokes (to which, you really should read the Bible study I did a few years ago where I mentioned vampires and other things like that rather frequently). So when Jenny Lawson just kept being hilarious, I laughed harder than I have in a really long time. Not since the flaming tassel dance, I think.

Overall, this book is hilarious and honest and I absolutely need to buy myself a copy. And then possibly buy this book for everyone I know because I laughed so very, very much throughout the entire book and I think that everyone needs laughter in their lives. I think this book is probably a five on my rating scale and I think that’s the highest I’ve ever rated any book. But once I buy the book, I’m going to have to carry it in the rain so that it looks as imperfect on the outside as we all are on the inside 🙂

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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