The Joy of Funerals: A Novel in Stories

The Joy of Funerals: A Novel in Stories

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by Alix Strauss
     
 

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A young widow who lusts, a daughter who aches, a shopaholic who hungers...The Joy of Funerals is a riveting collection that explores the lives of nine young women, each willing to take drastic measures to fill the voids created by longing and loneliness. The first eight face death differently, while the ninth woman Nina ties them all together by attending

Overview

A young widow who lusts, a daughter who aches, a shopaholic who hungers...The Joy of Funerals is a riveting collection that explores the lives of nine young women, each willing to take drastic measures to fill the voids created by longing and loneliness. The first eight face death differently, while the ninth woman Nina ties them all together by attending funerals in her search to connect with others.

Written with raw wit, mordant humor and a uniquely penetrating voice, Strauss turns the spotlight on loss and grief. In the vein of Six Feet Under, this is a provocative look into the inner world of those left behind, and those still holding on.

Editorial Reviews

The Los Angeles Times
Although the book presents a number of incongruities among the relationships of its characters, the author nonetheless holds our attention from page to page. Though it's natural for readers to want to turn away from the pain of people who are grieving, Strauss, to her credit, manages to take us beyond this skittishness and into empathy for the characters. In and of itself, this is the biggest accomplishment of The Joy of Funerals and one that ultimately proves there is no one correct way to grieve. — Tripp Whetsell
Kirkus Reviews
Novel-in-stories about morbidly lonely thirtysomething women who find comfort in mortuaries. The women here are bereft of men and angry about it. In the first, seemingly unconnected chapter, "Recovering Larry," a widow of several weeks seeks to hold on to her husband by seducing men she finds at the cemetery and re-creating with them the matrimonial communion. In "Shrinking Away," a shopaholic debtor and Upper West Side daughter, Helen, commits a final desperate cry for love by stealing the ashes of her lover-therapist, Marty, who stepped into an elevator shaft. These are savvy, well-educated people, mainly in New York City, born into wealth and fortune and yet lacking satisfying love-relationships. Their obsessive stalking of others to assuage their gnawing loneliness can border on the creepy: in "Versions of You," Shannon, the fat girl in the Fifth Avenue office whom no one likes, fixates on the skinny, chronically hung-over Lilly and bestows on her a set of encyclopedias Shannon has bought from a dubious salesman type who reminds her of her father. "Addressing the Dead" pursues the sad affection a newly motherless daughter strikes up with her mother's funereal cosmetologist; while "Post Dated" chronicles the mortifying moments of a doomed blind date-the man ends up murdered. Ultimately, each protagonist reappears in the title story (the last and longest). There, Nina Perlman, incognito, recounts her systematic, daily visits to funeral services in order to find connection and consolation with the grief-stricken relatives: "Will you love me?" she ponders while meeting these strangers, who either draw her in with gratitude or cast her out in repulsion. Newcomer Strauss achieves cohesion,but her writing snags on the lamentably pedestrian ("anxiety rising in her chest like a soufflé baking in the oven"), while her characters, similar in background and voice, begin to sound like one another. A snappy idea buried by verveless writing.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312309183
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/09/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author


Alix Strauss is a lifestyle trend writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times and many other periodicals. The Joy of Funerals is her first novel. She lives in New York City.

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The Joy of Funerals: A Novel in Stories 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking and excellent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You might think that this would be a depressing book, being about death and funerals, but The Joy of Funerals is a suprisingly lively book! The characters are full formed and interesting, the pace of the stories and the novella is fast and funny and the writing is the kind you expect from an author maybe twice Strauss's age! I enjoyed it and reccomend it highly for summer reading or anytime.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿a widow who lusts....a daughter who aches...a lover who obsesses...a shopaholic who hungers ¿a dare-devil who desires ¿a single woman who longs¿an ¿ an artist who craves ¿ and a funeral-junkie who needs. These are the nine women who inhabit THE JOY OF FUNERALS. Throughout this collection, these characters explore the basic need for human connection while seeking to understand themselves better. It is the `where do I belong¿ and the `how do I fit in¿ that I am trying to explore through these sad, bright and amazingly strong women. In Recovering Larry, a woman mourns for her dead husband by having sex with grieving men she finds at the cemetery. In Shrinking Away, a woman pays a daring Shiva call on her psychiatrist-turned-lover¿s widow. Still Life peers into the life of a pregnant artist who wishes to paint herself out of a bad marriage and into a prettier world while Post-Dated introduces you to a single woman who wonders if her recently deceased date was perhaps the perfect man. Read independently, these stories stand on their own. When read as a collection, they are anchored together by the novella, The Joy of Funerals, which follows the life of Nina, a single thirty-something woman who attends the funerals of the deceased characters in the previous stories. I have always been fascinated with death. The different ways people react at funerals and how they choose to grieve captivates me. The dynamics, the unspoken words, the body language, everything that is said, and that which is not, is riveting. Family dynamics also play a major role in my work. The way we long for connection to each other, the needs we have that go unfilled, the people who define us and what we are without them, are the themes that surround the stories. I hope you will find these women and their tales engaging, interesting and thought provoking. Mostly, I hope these characters stay with you long after you¿ve read THE JOY OFFUNERALS. Many thanks. Alix Strauss