An Entertainment Weekly Pick of Summer’s Best New Books
Wren’s closest friend, her anchor since childhood, is dead. Stewart Beasley. Gone. She can’t quite believe it and she definitely can’t bring herself to google what causes an aneurysm. Instead of weeping or facing reality, Wren has been dreaming up the perfect funeral plans, memorial buffets, and processional songs for everyone from the corner bodega owner to her parents (none of whom show signs of imminent demise).
Stewart was a rising TV star, who—for reasons Wren struggles to understand—often surrounded himself with sycophants, amusing in his life, but intolerable in his death. When his icy mother assigns Wren the task of disseminating his possessions alongside George (Stewart’s maddening, but oddly charming lawyer), she finds herself at the epicenter of a world in which she wants no part, where everyone is competing to own a piece of Stewart’s memory (sometimes literally).
Remembering the boy Stewart was and investigating the man he became, Wren finds herself wondering, did she even know this person who she once considered an extension of herself? Can you ever actually know anyone? How well does she really know herself?
Through laughter and tears, Nora Zelevansky’s Competitive Grieving shines a light on the universal struggle to grieve amidst the noise, to love with a broken heart, and to truly know someone who is gone forever.
“With a satisfying blend of warmth and irreverence, Nora Zelevansky explores grief as both a private struggle and a public performance. Several of these characters began to feel like my good friends—the rest, like my enemies. Competitive Grieving is a sharply observed comedy about the complexity of friendship and the finality of death.” —Emily Adrian, author of Everything Here Is under Control and The Second Season
“How do we handle grief? When Wren’s touchstone friend dies, she’s unmoored, and even more so when she begins to wonder if she really knew her beloved friend as well as she thought she did. And that makes her wonder: how well does she know herself? Darkly funny and deeply moving, about love, loss, and the transformative power of grief.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and With or Without You
“Is it strange to find a book about loss such a joyous affirmation of what makes life worth the struggle? With her irrepressible wit and warmth, Zelevansky perfectly captures the vortex that follows a shocking loss, while also reminding us that even on the hardest days there is always the possibility of finding redemption, forgiveness, and even love.” —Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Nanny Diaries
“Nora Zelevansky’s lovely Competitive Grieving is equal parts romantic, thoughtful, and truly moving—as well as being a lively and sincerely funny exploration of how well two people can ever truly know each other. You will hug your friends a little tighter after reading it.” —Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, bestselling authors of The Royal We and The Heir Affair
“I absolutely loved Nora Zelevansky’s Competitive Grieving: a story about life and death, grief and identity, friendship and memory, told with a sharp eye and warm heart.” —Gemma Burgess, screenwriter and author of the critically acclaimed series Brooklyn Girls
Nora Zelevansky is the author of Will You Won’t You Want Me? and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and their enormous cat, Waldo.
Katie Schorr is an actor and writer in New York. Her one-woman show, Take Me. Seriously, ran for six months at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and she performs throughout New York in new works at the Ensemble Studio Theatre and Ars Nova, among other theaters. She has appeared on VH1’s Best Week Ever and costars in the web series Head in the Oven with Saturday Night Live actor Bill Hader. Her audiobook credits include narrating the novels in Alyson Noel’s bestselling Immortals series. Of her work on the series, AudioFile magazine has said, “Narrator Katie Schorr has a wonderfully raspy, youthful voice, which she puts to good effect on the cast of teenage characters.”