I DID squeeze in one more book before I left. Huzzah! And what a book it is: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley.

You might remember him from 2021’s The Guncle, which I loved (as a lot of other people did — it was a bestseller). That book was a lot about one man’s grief over the recent death of his best friend/sister-in-law and longer ago death of his partner. This one is about grief, too, but it’s spread around.

The Celebrants is about six friends who met in college. One of the group’s members died three weeks before graduation. In a drunken fit of grief, they make a pact: each one can call the group together, whenever they need to, so they can attend their own “funeral,” and hear people say nice things about them while they’re still alive.

The lead person in the book is Jordan, who we learn fairly early on is dying of cancer. He calls for his own pre-funeral, and the story of the group comes out, with jumps back and forth in time, from there.

While Rowley is a gay man, I have related more to The Guncle and The Celebrants more than some fiction written by straight women, because the focus in these books not on marriage and children. Instead, we meet these characters as adults, and how they live and act like adults, not as how they live and act in relation to a child or spouse. Some characters are married and have children, but what happens to them is about them, not everyone else. The focus is also on the power of friendships, and how they are vital parts of our lives too.

As a woman who has decided to stay childfree, and will only get married if she finds the right person and not just for the sake of being married, I feel this deeply. I so appreciate this point of view. I also got a laugh at Rowley having to explain what the store Structure was, with the aside of “remembering the defunct men’s store.” Did he include that, or did a copy editor make him add it for the sake of the youths? Oy I feel old.

One more note: The Celebrants was published on May 30, and I found a copy in a Little Free Library last week. To whoever tore through this then decided to share, thank you!

Nail polish: Pippa by Zoya.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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