Books & Literature

Book Review: Broken: In the Best Possible Way, by Jenny Lawson

MEMOIR: A treat for Jenny Lawson’s already existing fans, and destined to convert new ones, Broken is a beacon of hope and a wellspring of laughter.

A very funny look at a very serious subject.

Broken: In the Best Possible Way is an incredibly funny account of the real-life struggles of Texan author and blogger Jenny Lawson. She has numerous physical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and anaemia which, combined with enduring social anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and depression, make for a complex and complicated life. She and husband Victor have been married for 25 years and while he is her major supporter in life, they still have arguments just like other couples. 

Her anxiety disorder was manifest at an early age and she would hide in her toy box hoping not to have to go to school. The situation was so bad that her mother changed jobs and went to work in the school cafeteria so she was around if Jenny should need her. The family was very poor when she and her sister were growing up and her father often brought unusual animals home to eat—including a goat—but almost as many ended up being pets. 

Lawson writes in a very informal, conversational style which seems appropriate given she is opening herself up to the reader. I can identify with many of the situations she describes but when she writes: “If you struggle with anxiety you probably know this feeling … the paralysis”, I can truly see myself (page 184). She could be reading my mind when speaking of not answering emails or texts and panicking that people will be angry with me for not responding. Just like many sufferers of anxiety, we are waiting for our mind to be in a better space, then we can deal with all this, but it rarely is and we continue not to respond, being “… so busy with worry that your constant back and forth looks like utter inaction.” (page 185).

In the book’s lighter moments, she can take a small incident, such as losing her shoe in a lift or being given the wrong parcel at the post office, and blow it up into a tale that makes the reader cry with laughter. The email interchange with her sister Lisa inspired by Lawson’s question, “How do dogs know they have penises?” is comic gold. Most of the time she gets this spot on, but there are instances that seem a little forced. This may be an instance of her American humour which I haven’t quite grasped, in spite of living in Texas for nearly five years.

Whether or not you are Broken in the way the author is, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this book and, hopefully, will pick up some tips and tricks to help you better understand those of us who are.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 27 April 2021
RRP: $34.99

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