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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Okay, people.  If there's one lesson I've learned so far in doing this blog, it's that my readers get scared or bored as soon as they see a post title with the words "Book Review."  I don't know if it's because you have a thing against books, a thing against reviews, or a thing against me doing book reviews. 

I hope it's not a thing against books, because books are awesome and you should read them before North Carolina tells us we can't.  If it's a thing against reviews, I promise that my reviews aren't like annual reviews or compensation reviews or parole board reviews.  They're much more benign and you don't have to get nervous or clammy-palmed.  If it's a thing against me doing book reviews, then I assume you're one of those people who says things like "Let's zip it with the breast-feeding instructions, Gisele.  Stick to modeling."  And I gotta say, I respect that.  But come on.  Have you not been paying attention?  If there's anything that's in my wheelhouse, it is books!

Nevertheless, I am a girl who learns from her mistakes.  So now when I write a book review, I'm not going to put the words "Book Review" in the title of the post.  Wah-bam!  Do you see how I'm controlling your mind right there?  Consider yourself my Bourne Identity.  (But if you kung-fu chop someone to death in a bus station janitor's closet, that's all on you.  Also, please don't do that.)

Yes, my little pet, you've gotten to the fourth paragraph of a book review.  Keep reading.  You're going to thank me for this one.


The book is called "Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)" by Jenny Lawson. 

Jenny gained fame and a devoted following as a blogger (she is known as the "Bloggess," the title of her blog).  During that time, she was also working on a book about her life.  That book is the aforementioned memoir, and it has topped the charts of best-seller lists since its release a few weeks ago.

The book chronicles her life from young girlhood to young motherhood.  But hers is no ordinary life, and hers is no ordinary perspective on that unordinary life.  You see, Jenny grew up in rural -- and I mean rural -- Texas, the daughter of a stay-at-home mom and ... a dad.  A dad who left the military to open a taxidermy shop in the back-yard.  A dad who thought cougars made good housepets.  A dad who woke his daughters up in the middle of the night to show them a new hand puppet he'd made...using the carcass of a dead squirrel.  A dad who fashioned winter boots for his girls by using old bread sacks.  Needless to say, growing up with that dad for a parent was not for the faint of heart, and Jenny survived her fair share of horrifying situations.  Like the time she had to artificially inseminate a cow and lost the turkey baster containing nature's juice in the process.

Her upbringing was certifiably unorthodox, shall we say, but she also writes about more relatable life events.  Meeting the man who'd become her (long-suffering) husband and the awkwardness of blending two families (especially his proper one and her "quirky" one).  The ups-and-downs of marriage.  The difficulties of making friends.  Surviving a job you don't like and leaving it to pursue your passion.  Struggling with debilitating insecurities and anxieties.  Trying to have children.  Becoming a mother.

The thing that sets this memoir apart, though, is the out-of-left-field humour and painfully hilarious take Jenny has on each of these otherwise universal moments.  The creativity with which she paints her husband as the foil to her insane impulses is delicious.  For example, there's an entire chapter devoted to post-it notes she left for her husband on topics such as picking up his wet towels from the bathroom floor.  In another chapter, she recounts a conversation she had with her husband when she was lost driving in the neighborhood they lived in because her GPS system was out to get her.

There was one passage that literally had me laughing and crying at the same time -- the tears being a result of the side-splitting laughing I was doing.  That passage involves her describing her first trip to a public pool with her toddler daughter.  Unbeknownst to Jenny, swimming toddlers need swimming diapers.  For the unenlightened, regular diapers become door-stopper heavy with all the water they absorb from the pool, and then they explode into bits of stuff you never would have guessed would constitute diaper components.  Jenny's horrifying enlightenment is, I think, the funniest thing I've ever read.

Amidst all the humor, though, Jenny manages to write equally poignant moments.  She honestly addresses her psychological issues, and shares her brave struggle to have a baby.  By the end of the book, you are officially in love with her.  Because she can make you laugh and make you cry and make you admire.

Be forewarned. The one other tie that binds this book is, perhaps not surprisingly, her love of taxidermied animals.  They're kind of her thing.  Some dads teach their kids a love of baseball; hers taught her a love of stuffed pets.  It's kind of weird to read about how she just HAD to have that little misshapen, miniaturized dead alligator, but somehow it's the weird-in-a-good-way weird.  The great thing is, though, Jenny knows her predilections are weird, and she's proud of them.  Actually, she knows she's pretty weird, and she's proud of that.  In fact, she's the Pied Piper of weirdos, but her lute is the written word.  To read her is to love her. 

Be forewarned again.  This book is not appropriate for funerals, burst appendix recuperations, or meetings with the Board of Directors.  There is no way to stop yourself from laughing.  And you're inevitably going to want to read out loud the passage that almost made you wet your pants.  Which is something your priest, your surgeon, and/or your Chairman probably won't look kindly upon.  Especially your priest.  There's lots of swearing.

Assuming everyone around you looks healthy and nowhere near a conference room, go get this book immediately.  Let me know what you think.

P.S.  Yes, I know.  You're welcome.

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