Courtesy of South Portland Public Library

Author Steven Rowley is to visit the South Portland Public Library on June 15 at 6 p.m. Rowley is the bestselling author of four novels including “Lily and the Octopus” and “The Guncle.”

He will talk about his new book at the event, “The Celebrants.” Copies will be available for purchase. Rowley will also  visit Print: A Bookstore at Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland on June 13 at 7 p.m.

“I was raised in South Portland, and graduated from South Portland High School in 1989,” Rowley said. “Maine was a great place to grow up and I was very involved in school and community theater, art programs, and of course summer library programs.

“I’m a huge fan of libraries, and have been ever since my parents walked me into the children’s library room at the South Portland Public Library. In summer, my mother would drop my sister Laura and I off at the library for their reading programs, and afterwards we were allowed to walk across the street to Red’s Dairy Freeze – a big deal to us at the time as we were trusted with a little bit of spending money. Red’s sat across a precarious five-way intersection from the library, and, well, Red served a generous serving of ice-cream.

“One summer day after our program at the library let out, Laura discovered that she had somehow misplaced her ice-cream money. Initially I shrugged at her predicament. How awful for her that she would have to sit and watch me eat an enormous bucket of ice-cream while she, herself, had none. She, however, insisted it was my moral duty as her older brother to split my money with her so that we could each enjoy a small frozen treat. As if! We fought about this for quite some time until the children’s librarian intervened. She gave Laura money out of her own pocket, equal to the amount she had lost, and we both went on our way to Red’s. When we relayed this story to our mother on the drive home – pleased with our good fortune – she pulled an immediate U-turn in the busy street and gave us money to march back into the library and repay the librarian. ‘We do not take money from librarians. Libraries give us enough already.’

“But soft serve ice-cream was only secondary motivation. The children’s librarian, Mrs. Brado, had gotten me hooked on books. I had always wanted to be a writer, but had wrongly assumed it was a career available to you only if you grew up in Manhattan, or had a society name. But then, Maine had Stephen King, and when I graduated from children’s books I went straight for the horror section. Stephen King and I are very different writers, but he made me realize that it was a possibility for someone like me. Now, whenever someone in my family thinks I’m a big deal, I have to remind them that I’m not even the most famous writer from Maine named Steven.”


Rowley’s new book, “The Celebrants,” explores friendships that span decades and the growth and changes of life.

“‘The Celebrants’ centers around a group of college friends from Berkeley’s class of 1995. Right before graduation they lose one of their own to suicide,” Rowley said. “After attending his funeral they imagine their friend might have made a different choice if only he could have witnessed his funeral too and heard firsthand how much he was loved. In that moment they make a pact to come back together at each friend’s lowest point in life to throw their “funeral” while they are still alive to attend it to remind them how much they mean to the others. None of them are sure they will need it, and  after graduation they scatter to the wind. But life has a way of interceding and over the years they are drawn back together again and again. My books walk a fine line with laugh out loud moments that can turn on a dime to explore something more heartfelt, and hopefully this book is no different.”

Rowley thought about this story he wanted to tell during COVID-19 pandemic.

“Early in the pandemic when we were all sheltering at home, I watched a lot of movies that I had fond memories of and I thought would bring some comfort,” said Rowley. “One of those movies was “The Big Chill,” a film a lot of us remember for its buzzy cast of future Oscar winners like William Hurt and Kevin Kline (Glenn Close, your day is coming!) and soundtrack of Motown hits. It’s a movie about the driftless part of middle age where it feels like there’s a sameness to life – but all the characters were 35. Thirty-five! Forty years ago that was what was considered middle aged? As someone who was staring at 50, that didn’t bring my comfort! So I wanted to take a modern look at middle age. The film posits that once you have a job, once you’re married and have kids, it’s a slow and repetitive coast to an empty nest and retirement. But that’s not true anymore. People no longer necessarily have just one career, stay in one house or in a single marriage. Today, these middle years can be filled with change and reinvention, along with dynamic growth. And that’s where all the good stories are.”

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