A NOTE FROM ALIX
In 2003, St. Martin’s Press released the first edition of The Joy of Funerals, which centers
around Nina, a lonely, single, thirty-something Manhattanite who attends other people’s funerals.
She goes in the hope of connecting with the mourners, to fill the deep emptiness created by the
inability to connect with the people in her life. Along the way Nina meets eight other just as
disconnected women at the funerals she attends, each who bring her closer to spiraling out of
control. Stories and characters connect and overlap, while Nina's quest to belong deepens.
When I first sat down to write this, I wanted to highlight how important and intense our
need to connect with each other can be. I hoped to show the loneliness we can all feel as humans
and the deep, innate and necessary desires we have for real relationships...and what can happen
when those don’t exist.
In revisiting this work, the first time in 20-years, to prepare for its rerelease – or
resurrection if you will, I was struck by how our need for true connections has only intensified.
Many of us have been mentally, physically, and emotional starved for it -- much like Nina,
especially after a pandemic where we were forced into an unwanted lifestyle of solitude. Those
lost years have only magnified our ache for organic, non-zooming, non-device driven, human-to-
The Joy of Funerals originally started out as an essay for the “Lives” column in The New
York Times Magazine regarding why I liked going to funerals -- it’s because I’m an only child.
Actually, I am the only, only child. For as many generations as I can retrace, everyone in
my family has had several children - except, of course, my parents, who decided to have just me.
Although each of my parents had a sibling, neither was especially close to them. Growing
up, everyone’s family tree seemed like a strong, robust Oak; mine was more like a weeping
willow, broken and hanging low. For me, there were no holiday dinners spent bonding over
burned turkey and overcooked stuffing, no long-distance, late-night phone calls, no group
vacations, no sharing of conquered milestones with family members. And so funerals became my
only chance to bond with my relatives, many of whom I'd never met. Rather than a solemn event,
I regarded them as reunions.
“Conversations pick up exactly where they left off years ago. And as we share stories of
the recently deceased, a small puzzle piece slips quietly into place. It is this inner, imageless
object I have been trying to complete for years. An empty space waiting to be filled with answers
and acceptance. It is the "where do I belong?" and "where do I come from?" that is missing from
my life. The longing for a connection to someone or something is a feeling I have never been
able to let go of,” I wrote for the Times.
The novel was inspired by the essay and grew fictionally from there.
The Joy of Funerals was, and still is, an exploration of human behavior and longing. It’s
about the great lengths we will go to get our needs met, and the isolation many of us encounter
daily – regardless of being married, having children, dear friends and large families... For many
of us we still feel misunderstood, left out, disconnected and unseen. And so here we are, two-
decades later with a celebratory unveiling – a reintroduction to characters that still want to be
heard, and still feel they have something to say.
Thank you for choosing to spend some time with these honest, raw, deeply wounded but
amazingly strong women. I hope they speak to you. I hope they help fill up some of the
emptiness you might be feeling, or at least let you know, you are indeed not alone.