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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shelf Awareness Book Talk: *Let's Pretend This Never Happened*, by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (4/27/2012).


book cover LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson
Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) (Twitter) (Facebook)
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2012) Hardcover (ISBN 0399159010 / 9780399159015)
Nonfiction/memoir, 336 pages
Source: ARC from publisher
Reason for reading: compensated review

Opening lines (from the Introduction): "This book is totally true, except for the parts that aren’t. It’s basically like Little House on the Prairie but with more cursing. And you’re thinking ‘But Little House on the Prairie was totally true!' And no, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t. Laura Ingalls was a compulsive liar with no fact-checker, and if she were still alive today, her mom would be saying, ‘I don’t know how Laura came up with this “I’m-a-small-girl-from-the-prairie” story.’” 

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter are the perfect comedic foils to her absurdities, and help her to 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.
CommentsJenny Lawson has inhabited the upper reaches of Internet fame as The Bloggess for some time. With her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), she draws and expands on the persona she’s honed on her very popular blog while crafting a narrative that’s entirely accessible to those getting to know her for the first time in print. Lawson is gifted at exaggeration for comic effect, and her stories will induce laughing and cringing in equal measure.

While some of the material in the book may be familiar to Lawson’s online readers--such as “And That’s Why You Should Learn to Pick Your Battles,” the story of her purchase of a giant sheet-metal chicken that she christens Beyonce--much of it is stories she hasn’t shared before. Readers will learn about Lawson’s rural West Texas childhood, with her dad’s taxidermy shop in the back yard; how she met and married the famously long-suffering Victor; her rather unlikely career in human resources with a faith-based organization; and her ultimate decision that her daughter deserved a crazy country childhood, too...complete with taxidermied animals.

Lawson has written openly and honestly on her blog about her nearly-crippling social anxiety and sense of inappropriateness. In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, she elaborates on the ways that the Internet has helped her deal with that; the chapter “Making Friends With Girls” is certain to connect with her core audience, but will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with fitting in (which means just about everyone). This condition probably means that Lawson would never have had a career in stand-up comedy, but the stage’s loss is the literary world’s gain, and the Internet will need to share this seriously funny writer with everyone else now.

Rating: 4/5