The Celebrants

Steven Rowley

Contemporary Fiction

A Big Chill for our times, celebrating decades-long friendships and promises—especially to ourselves—by the bestselling and beloved author of The Guncle.

It’s been a minute—or five years—since Jordan Vargas last saw his college friends, and twenty-eight years since their graduation when their adult lives officially began. Now Jordan, Jordy, Naomi, Craig, and Marielle find themselves at the brink of a new decade, with all the responsibilities of adulthood, yet no closer to having their lives figured out. Though not for a lack of trying. Over the years they’ve reunited in Big Sur to honor a decades-old pact to throw each other living “funerals,” celebrations to remind themselves that life is worth living—that their lives mean something, to one another if not to themselves.

But this reunion is different. They’re not gathered as they were to bolster Marielle as her marriage crumbled, to lift Naomi after her parents died, or to intervene when Craig pleaded guilty to art fraud. This time, Jordan is sitting on a secret that will upend their pact.

A deeply honest tribute to the growing pains of selfhood and the people who keep us going, coupled with Steven Rowley’s signature humor and heart, The Celebrants is a moving tale about the false invincibility of youth and the beautiful ways in which friendship helps us celebrate our lives, even amid the deepest challenges of living.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

“Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even its end.” —Joanne Harris

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) After the sudden death of a friend, a group of college friends vow to celebrate “living funerals” so the “deceased” can hear all the amazing things their friends have to say about them. It’s a story about life, struggles and death. But most of all, the importance of friendship.

Rowley wrote one of my top books of 2021, Guncle. The beauty of his writing grabbed me immediately but the story is what held my heart. I wanted that for this book. It felt as if it would be a book to make me think, to appreciate life and the people in it. And while I did love the premise of the book, it still fell a bit short for me.

“Do as many things as you can to remind yourself you’re alive.”

I love the idea of their “living funerals” even if they were awkward and inconvenient at times. It showed the beauty of friendship and reminded me that others see me differently, a lot of the time, better, than I see myself. For this idea alone, I loved the book. Hearing the words and feelings people have about you BEFORE you die? Why haven’t we thought of this before?

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single one, and the life of that candle will not be shortened. That’s what you do for others. You light their candle with yours.”

Sadly, this didn’t hit the mark for me. While I liked a few of the characters, I never felt connected to them. Their trials, while sad, didn’t tug at my heart like Guncle did. The book ended beautifully even for all it’s misgivings and I haven’t given up on Rowley yet. Guncle was too impressionable for me to not read him again. I do believe those of us in the “olderish” generation would appreciate the humor (the generation where you wake up and you find yourself sore but also find yourself grunting when bending down. Are these our golden years? I feel jipped).

General content summary: F word= 19, m/m marriage (few intimacy details), man dying of cancer, references to m/m intimacy (some details), drugs (multiple kinds, multiple times), alcohol (multiple), body of a friend is found (grief, cpr, drug overdose?), a death turns into a suicide debate, skinny dipping, m/f intimacy (some details), sexual harassment (previous, few details), infidelity, smoking marijuana, ouiji board, parental deaths (previous, plane crash), HIV discussion, drugs (mushrooms), alcohol (multiple).

Thank you to Shelf Awareness and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the copy!

The book releases May 30, 2023.

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

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