Competitive Grieving

A Novel

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Pub Date 11 May 2021 | Archive Date 06 Dec 2021

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Description

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 look up the symptoms of an aneurysm. Instead of weeping, Wren’s 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 any signs of imminent demise).

Stewart was a rising television star, who—for reasons Wren struggles to comprehend—often surrounded himself with sycophantic and questionable characters, amusing in his life, but intolerable in his death. When his icy mother assigns Wren the task of sorting through and 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, a world where everyone wants to own a piece of Stewart’s memory and claim a stake in both his life and his death.

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 really know anyone? Will the real Stewart Beasley please stand up?

Ultimately, in pursuit of acceptance, Wren discovers that her own true identity may be just as obscure as her friend’s. How did she land here? How much of her own reality has she been walking through blind?

Competitive Grieving is a dark, touching comedy—and unlikely love story—about loss and the chaotic aftermath of death. It takes an honest look at the universal struggle to tune out the noise and grieve, to love in the face of loss, and to yearn to truly know someone who is gone forever.

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 look up the symptoms of an aneurysm. Instead of...


A Note From the Publisher

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.

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...


Advance Praise

“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


“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


“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


“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


"Zelevansky’s quirky novel is a heartfelt look at a lifelong friendship and the impact of a friend’s death, which can also open a door in one’s heart to allow others in."

-Library Journal

“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...


Marketing Plan

• National and regional reviews, features, and interviews

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• Author website: NoraZelevansky.com

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Booksellers: Please consider nominating this title for the May INDIE NEXT LIST

Voting Deadline: 3/1/21


Librarians: Please consider nominating this title for the May LIBRARYREADS LIST

Voting Deadline: 4/1/21

• National and regional reviews, features, and interviews

• Social media campaign

• Literary and women’s fiction media buzz mailing

• Book club marketing

• Print and digital advertising

•...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781094007830
PRICE $27.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 21 members


Featured Reviews

How can a novel about the death of a young television star be light reading? When it is written with the deftness and grace that Zelevansky has injected into this marvelous, thoughtful new novel. This is a beautiful, hopeful novel centered around Wren coming to terms with the death of her long term best friend Stewart. The suddenness of death and the realization that even those close to us don’t share all their secrets.

Wren is such a likable character that the reader (this reader in particular) certainly connected to her. Even the location, NYC, Upper Westside, where I live, made it even more accessible. Her descriptions are pitch perfect I love her semi-charicature group of hangers on who inevitably appear at funerals. Best of all, I love George, the knight who enters this scene.

I think this is a special book and I will urge all my friends to read it. I also think it will be valuable for book clubs to discuss. It is rich and full of lessons to discuss and digest.

Thank you Netgalley for this absolutely special read.

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COMPETITIVE GRIEVING may wear its sadness on its sleeve, but it holds a huge, messy, poignant, complicated love story close to its vest. We follow thirty-six-year-old Wren as she contends with the recent, sudden death of Stewart, her best friend since childhood and a rising star in television. Alongside her is George, Stu's lawyer and friend, as well as "the vultures" -- Stu's friends from LA. The group of big, clashing personalities is forced together in Stewart's NYC apartment while Wren tries to fulfill the task bequeathed her in Stu's will: sort through his earthly belongings, and allow those in the inner circle to take mementos. Wren detests the performative grief she sees all around her, and struggles to understand how the boy she grew up with could/would have surrounded himself with such awful people. Worse, Wren discovers there's quite a lot she didn't know about Stewart -- and the distance between who she thought he was and who he became before his death seems as insurmountable as the chasm between life and death.

Ultimately, Stewart's death forces Wren to face the daunting prospect of living her own life. In this way, COMPETITIVE GRIEVING is a delayed coming-of-age story (what do we call an awakening that happens after adolescence but before midlife?); it's not that Wren needs to "grow up" per se, but rather that she needs to grow out -- out of her comfort zone, her assumptions, her safety net. In classic narrative terms, we find Wren in her Dark Night of the Soul straightaway, and the novel follows her on the long path toward dawn.

There's an unexpectedly delicious romance in this novel, made especially compelling by the wry humor shared between the love interests. Less unexpected but still particularly compelling is the book's meditation on depression, which is as hard to process as it is authentic. Zelevansky manages difficult subjects with grace and nuance, making space for the full range of emotions both Wren and readers experience. Writing about deeply-felt loss -- and the chaotic, messy, maelstrom of feeling that goes along with it -- can so easily tilt into sentimentality, but Zelevansky resists the Siren call to tug on heartstrings. If you read the Acknowledgements, you'll understand why.

Content warning: depression, suicide, death

Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I’ve always been a sucker for beautiful, bold covers, and when the book’s content and writing is just as big and beautiful, the author can connect with me on another level. On a different note, Wren, the main character, is my spirit animal.

Part romantic comedy, part devastating loss, part finding yourself, Competitive Grieving realistically emulates life as we all know it, with incredibly real emotions, where no one person feels or handles grief the same way.

Some people are shit. Some people are beautiful. But most people are a mixture of the two, and Competitive Grieving doesn’t hesitate to make you realize there’s more to grief than outward appearance. There’s more to people than what they show you on any given day.

Are you the person who can’t cry when something devastating happens? Are you the one who can’t stop crying? Do you immediately become the spokesperson and take control? Do you judge everyone around you for their grief, when you know that no one knows this person better than you?

Ultimately, we’re all in this world, trying to understand life and love and those around us, that may not be around us indefinitely. I could actually (have actually) seen myself doing, saying, living some of these moments with the characters, and to me, that makes an amazing piece of art.

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