Review of Dancing at the Pity Party, by Tyler Feder

Dancing at the Pity Party

A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir

by Tyler Feder

Dial Books, 2020. 202 pages.
Review written July 27, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

I like the way Dancing at the Pity Party gives you full disclosure in the subtitle. Yes, this is a graphic memoir about the author’s experience with her mother’s death from uterine cancer that happened when Tyler was 19 years old and a sophomore in college.

The book is really well done. It’s a wonderful tribute to her mother and the relationship they had. It tells the story of how the cancer unfolded and the horrible and strange things that did to her emotions. And it explores the mess of grief and the strange things people say.

I probably should not have read this book only eight months after my own mother died. One of the things people do that’s insensitive is compare grief. I can’t fully understand what Tyler went through, because my mother was 78, not 47, and had Alzheimer’s, so by the time she died, it seemed horrible that she’d been alive so long. But I found myself saying, “Yeah, but my father died, too!” – because my father died unexpectedly two months before my mother finally passed. And that has nothing to do with Tyler’s experience – but for me it pointed out that all grief is sadly individual. You can find people who understand certain aspects of what you’re going through, but each one of us has our own journey.

And that’s what’s brilliant about this book. It portrays Tyler’s individual journey with grief. It makes a beautiful tribute to her mother, and it’s a wonderful story about human emotions.

I especially liked her fantasy Deadmom App. Among other things, it mutes all Mother’s Day social media and looks up any movie to find out if the mom dies in it. (I went to see the Mister Rogers movie with Tom Hanks when my Mom was dying in another state. I didn’t know the other main character would be dealing with the deaths of his parents.)

She thinks of so many aspects of the experience of losing someone so important, things that you don’t necessarily think of when you think about loss.

Reading this book will touch your heart whether you’ve ever experienced grief or not.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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