Review: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley


Release date: May 30, 2023

Publisher: Putnam

Genre: 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.


I was drawn to this one because of the unique premise and the whole concept of living funerals, what a wonderful idea. Initially the idea of that can sound a little bleak, but the thought of making sure loved ones know exactly how you feel and what kind of impact they have had on your life is so special and touching. I love the authors brand of humor and wit and there was some wisdom here that really spoke to me. While there is a lot of emotional trauma here the balance between the heavier stuff and lighter moments was great for me and I found it to be heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Fans of The Guncle will be pleased.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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