“The Celebrants” by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Steven Rowley is one of those authors where if you read one of his novels, his name gets added to a mental “TBR” (to-be read) list. That is, of course, if you love rich characters written with love and humor that you'd like to know in real life. Each of his books is so uniquely different in plot and beautifully told.
Rowley's “The Guncle” was a favorite of 2021 and his newest offering, “The Celebrants,” doesn't disappoint. It follows a group of longtime friends from college who make a point to take time out of their separate busy lives and celebrate one other with “living funerals," so nothing is left unsaid.
These gatherings sometimes come at difficult points, divorces, times of loss, and surprises, but no matter what they provide a tonic for life's tribulations that is often found with those you have a history with.
Rowley keenly taps into the vibe of old friendships. Old friends can go a long time without seeing or speaking and then when reunited they're like rubber bands, reverting back to their younger selves, speaking in shorthand, laughing at inside jokes that are still just as hilarious, and providing a level of comfort that's the equivalent of a relaxing exhale.
Maybe it's because so many of us were separated from one another during the height of the pandemic, or that during that time we grew accustomed to socializing less, working from home and staying in — but it seems people are craving connection now more than ever. Rowley's “The Celebrants” is not only a reminder of that, but a salve. Treat yourself, read this book, and call an old friend.
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Alicia Rancilio, The Associated Press