The Joy of Funerals by Alix Strauss

For some unknown reason, possibly just stupidity, I translated the "joy" in The Joy of Funerals by Alix Strauss in my mind into the term "humor." As though "making a joyful noise" means laughing. I think a quoted critic's reference to "Six Feet Under" maybe added to my confusion.

Unfortunately, I didn't find the slightest bit of humor in this book. I actually ended the book feeling very down, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, the characters spoke to me in certain ways, just not in terms of humor.

This book is about grief and other forms of dysfunction in various manifestations in related short stories. I was a little put off by the way the book started, with a story about a woman who, as part of her grief, sleeps with every willing man who comes to the cemetery where her husband is buried. Another character, in therapy for compulsive shopping/overspending, steals the ashes of said therapist, with whom she has been having an affair for two years. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching, combined with fascinatingly repulsive, character is the woman who goes to the services, including the two just mentioned, of people she doesn't know and pretends to know them. "Dysfunctional" doesn't begin to cover that!

While I can't say that I "liked" the book, exactly, I did appreciate the originality and descriptiveness of the various characters in the stories. Strauss certainly kept me interested in the people and what they were doing.

My overall personal rating of The Joy of Funerals is a B-.


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