Grief isn’t funny, so don’t laugh

Published 9:17 am Monday, March 9, 2009

Angie: I think people are actually reading our column.

Mandy: Probably because it‘s next to the funnies.

Angie: Word. Funnies are the best part. And that would explain why someone asked me to autograph their napkin “Marmaduke.”

Email newsletter signup

Mandy: I like the comics, except “Family Circus.” I think it might be right-wing propaganda.

Angie: OK, Dwight K. Schrute. When you return from the beet farm, we can continue this column.

Mandy: I am back.

Angie: Since we’re sharing our distaste for all things funnies, I don’t like ‘Peanuts’. They leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Mandy: That‘s punny.

Angie: Let’s talk about one of the books you selected for our book club, WELL. Remind me what have you chosen?

Mandy: “Frankenstein,” “Night” and “The Lovely Bones.”

Angie: Excellent. Monsters, Nazis and death. It’s a wonder they don’t put us next to the obits.

Mandy: You make me sound bad. I hate you. Forever.

Angie: I’m just pointing out that you choose books that are somewhat gruesome. Honesty is important in friendship and other people‘s columns.

Mandy: You’re right. Friendship on.

Angie: I will decide since you we’ve clearly established that you don’t make the best decisions when left to your own devices. I’ll flip a coin.

Mandy: Do you have three-sided coin?

Angie: No, I’ve developed an intricate mathematical equation. It involves the quotient of pi, subsets, there are fractions involved. It’s complicated. (coin toss) And “The Lovely Bones” it is.

Mandy: “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold is set in a suburban community in the 1970s. The story begins with the brutal murder of a 14 year old girl, Susie Salmon, by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. Over the next eight years, she watches her family grieve from heaven.

Angie: The cover is simply a picture of Susie’s charm bracelet, which Mr. Harvey keeps as a trophy after he murders her. The bracelet serves as a metaphor. Each charm is meant to represent those who loved her.

Mandy: The title refers to what Susie has left behind. It’s not her body, which remains undiscovered. Rather, it’s a grieving family that learns to accept her death.

Angie: The rising action of the book is watching all the characters go through the five stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They all go through them at different times and in different ways. As a reader, I went through most of the stages myself.

Mandy: That is what I found to be most engaging about this book. The characters are raw, imperfect and real. I found myself wondering how I might deal with the same kind of loss.

Angie: This book frustrated me because I realized that I am a traditionalist when it comes to story telling. Bad people do bad things and should be punished. Good people do good things and should be rewarded. The author builds so much tension getting to my preconceived happy ending that I began to feel anxious I wouldn’t get it.

Mandy: That was very nicely stated. I don’t necessarily agree, though.

Angie: That’s because I want instant gratification. And you’re more of a “take the long way home” kind of a girl. That’s why I drive.

Mandy: I thought it was because I turn left at the corner between McDonald’s and Walgreens.

Angie: True story.

Mandy: The reason I don’t agree with you is two-fold. First, I like characters that embody good and bad at the same time because I find that more true to human nature. Second, the tension is what makes us keep turning the pages.

Angie: Too much tension give me knots.

Mandy: So you can reward yourself for your patience with a post-novel massage.

Angie: Don’t forget my happy ending.

Mandy: I like how the author creates a heaven for Susie that includes all that she desires. My version of heaven would be endless shelves of books. I would just need to hold them to my head, and POOF!, I would have read them with the same level of enjoyment as if I had read each word while sipping a cool beverage on a sandy beach. That would be my happy ending.

Angie: Your happy ending includes osmosis?

Mandy: And mimosas.

Angie: Good grief!

Angie and Mandy read the funnies in Albert Lea, where they live. You can e-mail them at