The Celebrants: Book Review

The Celebrants: Book Review

I spent an entire night reading “The Celebrants.” My impression of the book is that it is truly excellent. I have detailed my review of “The Celebrants” below; if you are interested, please read it carefully. What I want to share at the beginning of this review is that it reminded me of my school days and my group of friends. We would sit together and talk about our dreams, ambitions, and personal desires.

However, as time passed, we gradually had fewer opportunities to meet and have those intimate conversations. Therefore, for anyone planning to read this book, I hope you will cherish your school friends. They are truly valuable and worthy of appreciation. Thank you!

The Celebrants: Book Review

The Celebrants: Book Review

Steven Rowley’s “The Celebrants” is a novel that masterfully blends humor, poignancy, and the enduring power of friendship. It is a story that resonates deeply, reminding us to show love and appreciation to those we care about while we still have the chance. The novel begins with a group of six best friends attending Berkeley in the mid-90s.

This tight-knit group is suddenly reduced to five when Alec, one of their own, dies tragically just before graduation. The loss is devastating, leaving the friends numb and grappling with all the things they wish they had told Alec while he was alive.

In their grief, the remaining five friends gather after Alec’s funeral and make a unique pact: they vow to hold “living funerals” for each other. These funerals are meant to be a reminder of love and value whenever someone in the group feels the need for it. Each person can call for their living funeral once, and only once, whenever they need that reminder the most.

As life often does, it moves on and the pact is largely forgotten as the friends transition into adulthood and their own separate lives. It isn’t until nearly twenty years later that the pact is reactivated. Marielle, whose marriage is falling apart and who feels adrift and without purpose, summons the group back to the Big Sur house where they had gathered after Alec’s death. She calls upon the group to remind her of her worth and all that she has to live for.

From this point, Rowley takes the reader on a journey through various crisis points in the friends’ lives, spanning their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Each living funeral is a unique and heartfelt event, tailored to the individual’s needs at that particular moment. These gatherings are sentimental, filled with humor, and ultimately meaningful in different ways. The friends may need different things at their funerals, but the group is always there to celebrate and support them, no matter what.

Rowley’s writing shines with its blend of compassion and humor. The narrative flows quickly from one funeral to the next, interspersed with the “now” storyline that drives the novel’s momentum. The characters are richly developed, each with their own quirks and depths, making them feel like real people. Their interactions are laced with snark and wit, but always grounded in a deep sense of love and understanding.

One of the most compelling aspects of “The Celebrants” is how it captures the essence of lifelong friendship. The characters, both as individuals and as members of the group, come to life on the page. The banter and camaraderie between them is authentic and relatable, reflecting the kind of bond that only comes from years of shared experiences and mutual support. Rowley’s depiction of this dynamic is both touching and humorous, making the reader feel like a part of the group.

However, not every moment in the novel hits the mark. There is a scene where the group decides to take mushrooms before going on an outing, which seems intended to be funny but comes across as fairly cringey. This part of the story feels out of place compared to the otherwise well-balanced tone of the book. It’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise smoothly flowing narrative, but it does stand out as a discordant note.

Despite this, the writing overall is engaging and manages to balance humor and emotion effectively. Rowley’s ability to navigate these two elements is impressive, as it’s a difficult balance to achieve. The message of the book is powerful and thought-provoking, emphasizing the importance of celebrating life and the people in it while we have the chance. The novel encourages readers to not wait to tell people how much they matter, because there’s no guarantee that there will be time later on.

The emotional core of the novel is its exploration of how we cope with loss and how we find ways to celebrate life despite it. The living funerals serve as a beautiful metaphor for the importance of expressing love and appreciation in the present moment. None of the characters would leave this Earth without knowing that they were loved, and this sentiment is deeply moving.

Throughout the book, Rowley delves into themes of holding onto lifelong friends, relishing small moments, facing difficult truths, and making space for the important people in our lives, even when we feel busy or overwhelmed. These themes are universally resonant and are likely to strike a chord with many readers. The novel is not just about the big, dramatic moments, but also about the quiet, everyday ones that shape our relationships and our lives.

In conclusion, “The Celebrants” is a funny, human, and touching story that celebrates the lasting bonds of friendship and the chosen family we create along the way. It is a deeply impactful reminder to cherish and appreciate the people we care about, not waiting for some distant future to express our love and gratitude. With its well-drawn characters, engaging narrative, and powerful message, “The Celebrants” is a novel that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Whether you read it or listen to the audiobook, Steven Rowley’s latest work is a heartfelt celebration of life and friendship that should not be missed.

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