Life Without

by Kris Crenwelge


After her mother dies of cancer, a precocious preteen struggles to define life without her, battling grief, her unconventional Choctaw grandmother, a make-or-break talent show, and a terrible homemade clown costume in her quest to reinvent herself and make friends at a brand-new school.


The two biggest life-defining moments for me happened when I was 10: My mother died of cancer, and, afterward, my Camel-smoking, Vegas-slots-playing maternal Choctaw grandmother moved in to help my dad raise me and my younger siblings into adulthood. Granny both delighted and tortured me until her death at the age of 90. I write about growing up with Granny in my personal essays and also perform them as a comedic storyteller. I thought, what if heightened the experience and created a dark comedy about it?

Life Without is a coming-of-age dramedy in the vein of My So-Called Life and The Wonder Years with a little of The End of the F-ing World thrown in. Week to week we follow Kim Grenvallier, her grandmother, Marie, her grandfather, dad and younger siblings as they learn how to live with each other after losing the centrifuge of their family. It’s not a kids’ show. It’s for anyone who has lost a parent or family member and specifically explores the unique grief process of motherless daughters.

When Kim Grenvallier’s mother, Penny, dies, she and her family—her rocket-scientist dad, Otto; little sister, Lori; baby brother, Mark; and her maternal grandparents, Marie and Bill—try to return to normal, which is impossible. Everyone spins out of control, including Kim, who steals Penny’s wedding ring at the funeral, and Kim’s world blows apart when Otto tells her he’s moving the family to Houston to live with Marie and Bill.

In Houston, Kim fibs, telling Lacey Lackey, the most popular girl in sixth grade, that Penny’s an undercover sleuth like Nancy Drew. Lacey invites Kim to her birthday party. Kim’s worried when she realizes it’s not just a birthday party—it’s also a talent show. And Kim has no talent. Marie offers to help; desperate, Kim accepts. Marie convinces Kim to dress up as a clown with a super-lame act. Kim wears Penny’s ring on a chain, hidden under her costume, for good luck.

At the party, Kim unravels as the girls ask about Penny. Her performance is disastrous. Afterward, the girls celebrate while Kim, at rock bottom, realizes Penny’s ring is missing. Penny’s loss rushes back as Kim melts down. When the truth comes out that Penny’s dead, Kim’s afraid she’ll be friendless forever. Miraculously, girls rally around her. Kim’s elated to find friends…but never finds the ring.

The next day, Marie opens up her jewelry box—she has Penny’s ring, which fell off when Kim exited Marie’s car. Marie puts it on, hiding it under her blouse.


coming-of-age, dark comedy, dramedy

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