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Sonoma County Gazette
I’m Just Happy to Be Here by Janelle Hanchett
(Photo Courtesy Sarah Maren Photography)

Book Review ~
I’m Just Happy to Be Here

Aug 19, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews


Janelle Hanchett, author of I’m Just Happy To Be Hereis a wonderful writer. She can be sassy and sarcastic without sacrificing poignancy. I would like to take credit for her talent and her articulate expression as I was her high school English teacher. But, I can’t. She was a natural. I remember her as a cute, peppy, blonde teenager—bright and determined. I could never in my wildest dreams ever imagine her as a besotted alcoholic and drug addict with her life so out of control that her mother has to step in to care for her children as she, and less so, her husband wander in and out of therapy and rehab as indicated in her memoir. It seems her life had reached a nadir of sorts.

Her story begins in the middle of her journey. Then she fleshes out her childhood and her recovery. At 21 she finds herself pregnant by a boyfriend she had known for three months. (Amazingly they are still together after 17 years!) Maybe it was post-partum depression or a deep-seated dissatisfaction or maybe it was just a continuation of her college partying ways but soon she needed wine to make it through the day and then it was cocaine. There were always the binges and the guilt. After countless relapses and with the support system of a loving family and with a weird mentor named Good News Jack she struggles and succeeds, at last, and is clean and sober.

Janelle also writes a blog called Renegade Mothering. It deals with life in general not just mothering. Whimsical and irreverent, her followers adore her as they can relate to her wistfulness as she watches her children grow up and away from needing her, or explains how her dog helped heal her or why teenagers eat Tide pods (to be cool). She explains how this last activity helped her understand Trump’s victory. The most beautiful piece was written after one of our myriad school slaughterings where she describes the exquisite angst, the irrational cosmic waste of the whole event. These last examples give an idea of her style that is carried through her book: pithy, profound, to the point and sometimes profane.

Managing to obtain an M.A. while producing a full-length book and as well as producing four children is a small miracle in itself. When recounting her really desperate low points she still peppers her writing with sardonic humor which is why Amazon has put her book on the list of ten best books, so far, in the humor category.



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