Friday, August 31, 2012

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Penguin Audiobooks
Narrated by Jenny Lawson
Length: 8 hours 41 minutes

Jenny Lawson, also known as The Blogess, has led a strange life. And I’m not talking about your everyday, tame kind of strange: Jenny’s life story is bizarre. But wait, don’t stop reading yet, because it’s also probably the funniest life story you’ll ever read, and it’s not G-rated. Growing up in rural Texas with a father who had a penchant for taxidermy, Jenny lived a life of wild animals racing through the house and being woken by her father in the middle of the night to play with stuffed chipmunks that pop out of cereal boxes. That kind of weird. Jenny relates all of this in her own hilarious and emotive voice, sharing her life as a child, her adolescence attending a high school that had a serious agricultural vibe, and rounding it off with her marriage to Victor, a man who not only keeps her sane but glides along smoothly beside her when she goes off the tracks into her habitual eccentricities. Whether she’s leaving passive-aggressive post-it notes on the dog or veering off into the more serious topics of anxiety issues and her terrible miscarriage, Jenny tells it all from the heart—and most of it is inexpressibly animated and comical. Jenny takes you on the road trip that is her life, and as she drives along pointing out all the odd sights and devilish merriment, there is pause for reflection and soul searching as well. This is the life of Jenny Lawson, and it’s full to the brim with bits and pieces so strange and unusual that you will never be able to forget her or her story.

When Sandy asked me if I would like to borrow the audio edition of this book, I was so eager and excited that I immediately said yes. She had given the book a great review, and almost all the other reviews I had seen were positive as well. I didn’t follow The Blogess, but you can bet I do now! I loved that Lawson narrated her own story, because having the book narrated by someone else would have been a huge mistake. Her infectious energy is almost tangible. She very candidly explores her life with just the right vocal inflections and groove, and adopts a more serious and somber tone for those difficult aspects of her life. Her narration absolutely made this book for me, and I can see that it was the right choice, as reading this on paper would not have had the same impact. My husband and I listened to this one together, and even he was laughing out loud, which is very rare, as he’s usually a rather serious listener.

Jenny’s life is totally out there. Living in rural Texas, she is a country girl and holds no pretensions whatsoever. It’s clear that she loves her family, but make no mistake, she knows that her dad is totally off the map. It was shocking but also very funny. Jenny’s dad clearly loves his children, but money was often tight, and his love for taxidermy and wild animals created some outrageously funny moments—probably moments that she wishes she could forget, but that a listener will revel in. Jenny’s mother takes all this in with a patient and forbearing attitude, making it easy for Jenny and her sister to laugh with glee at the wild moments in the house, but also to be scared stiff when bobcats go running through the living room. Jenny deals with her father’s particular brand of humor with dry and sardonic wit, but it’s clear that she wouldn’t have it any other way (well maybe fewer bobcats).

When Jenny meets Victor, she falls deeply in love with him, but even he can’t overcome her own brand of strangeness. Victor is from the other side of life, born to a wealthy and genteel family, and Jenny’s recounting of meeting Victor’s mother and having a family dinner with them was both entertaining and slightly neurotic. As Victor and Jenny wed, they blend together in a swirl of manic energy and lucid perseverance. Some of the antics that Jenny pulls had me saying “poor Victor”, but I think Victor knows the wry ostentation of his wife better than any reader ever could. I particularly loved the dead serious talks they have about zombie infection and when it’s okay to go hunting for zombies in the graveyard close to their house. It’s clear that Victor “gets” Jenny, and though there are times I felt she pushed to him to his limits, I can imagine that he must eagerly push her buttons sometimes too.

Jenny is much given to hyperbole, and this is one of the things that makes her book so funny. It’s clear that some of her mishaps have been embellished, but most of them come straight out of her life, and hyperbole aside, the book’s frenzied pace and acute delivery do justice to the world of comic writing. She steals the show with her oversized reactions and personality, and gives Victor a complete run for his money.

Jenny is also not afraid to touch on topics that some would consider TMI. In a heartbreaking chapter, she relates what it was like to miscarry her child and what it’s like living with anxiety that must be controlled by medical means. When she discovers the world of blogging, she makes friends but has a hard time during a weekend trip with other bloggers. I think most of us here can relate. As she wonders if her personality is too overeager and off the wall, I could see myself in her, albeit more calm and internal. While it was great to read about her insane life, I could see a side of her that was vulnerable and prone to nervousness and self criticism. It made me like her more to see these softer sides, and realize that she was not only an overly zealous personality, but a human being, scared and confused as we all sometimes are.

If you’re looking for a book that will make you bark out inappropriate laughter at any moment, this is the book for you. Also, as an audio bonus, Jenny sings each chapter title off key, and even imbues the audiobook with an extra chapter not found in the printed version. I loved this book and its weird blend of over the top humor and quirkiness. It’s fun and frivolous but also very emotionally significant at times. A read that would appeal to most fans of comedic writing. Recommended.


bermudaonion said...

I read this in print and it got old for me after a while. I have a feeling I would have enjoyed it more on audio. It just seemed to me that Lawson has made her mark by writing of the drama in her life and when there isn't any drama she has to create some. I also felt like she wanted to see how many times she could get away with using the word vagina in her book - it fit at times but felt forced at others. I'm probably just too old for this one.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I know it was a winner for many book bloggers so I'm glad you liked it too! Sounds like audio is the way to go with this one.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Sounds like a quirky fun audio! Might consider this for next month's credit!

Ana S. said...

I enjoy her blog so much - I need to get around to reading this!

Sandy Nawrot said...

See I have a theory actually. I think she could crawl into my history and make it just as wacky as hers. I don't really think her life is any more crazy than the next, but she just has the ability to make high drama out of EVERYTHING, even when nothing is happening! On my dad's side of the family, we had some really strange characters that could give Jenny's dad a run for their money. They just don't have a storyteller in their family like Jenny. She has to be a piece of work to live with. Her husband is a saint.

Suko said...

"If you’re looking for a book that will make you bark out inappropriate laughter at any moment..."

Yes, I am! Thank you for this terrific review!!

Anonymous said...

This sounds good, and as Sandy said, Jenny probably has a penchant for storytelling and high drama. :-) I like the fact that she combines zaniness with frank discussion of serious topics. That's definitely my style. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I just finished the audio of this one after you and Sandy passed it on to me, and I also thought it was pretty hilarious. I didn't follow her blog before but I'm definitely going to now!

Jenners said...

I'm soooo glad that this is my next audiobook listen!!!!!!

Marie Cloutier said...

Ok- sold! :-)

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I'm super late commenting on this, but I'm really happy to hear you loved this one! And I'm a bit jealous of the extra chapter, now I wish I had it in audiobook too.
What you mention about Jenny not being afraid to touch some subjects make sense for me, after reading her blog for a while. I'm excited to hear she's being even more of herself in the book!

Jenny said...

I've been looking for a couple more books to get on audible, and I think I might have to get this one! I wish I had been following her blog because I've checked it out a few times and she's hilarious!

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