The ratings:
5 stars  excellent
4 stars  very good
3 stars  good
2 stars  fair
1 stars  poor

Blog stats:

Navigate the site:

Books by the Blogger:

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

Advertise: Rates & stats

Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them. The blog, however, will continue, and if you've got a good first line to share for TwitterLit please do so here.



  
From a random review:

  

« Barclay, Linwood: Never Look Away | Main | Rubin, Courtney: The Weight-Loss Diaries »

Lynch, Thomas: The Undertaking

  

Printer-friendly page! Use print preview to see how this page will appear.

W.W. Norton, 224 pages
1st published: 1997
4.5 stars

Note: Amazon affiliate: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price.

The Undertaking is a series of essays by Thomas Lynch, a man whose twin trades, unusual enough in themselves, and more so in combination, make him particularly suited to write on the themes of the book: he is both a poet and an undertaker. In the book Lynch writes about his day job--not the gory bits of the business, but about what it's like to care for the dead in the small town of Milford, Michigan, where very often he's burying someone with whom he's had a history in life:

"After my housekeeper was installed, I went to thank Milo and pay the bill. The invoices detailed the number of loads, the washers and the dryers, detergent, bleaches, fabric softeners. I think the total came to sixty dollars. When I asked Milo what the charges were for pick-up and delivery, for stacking and folding and sorting by size, for saving my life and the lives of my children, for keeping us in clean clothes and towels and bed linen, 'Never mind that' is what Milo said. 'One hand washes the other.'

"I place Milo's right hand over his left hand, then try the other way. Then back again. Then I decide that it doesn't matter. One hand washes the other either way."
Lynch's specific recollections--about suicides he's known and cleaned up after, about embalming his own father--serve as entree to larger discussions--the function of funerals, the problem of assisted suicide, or, in a heart-breaking chapter, how we grow into the fear of parenting. The dark possibilities that haunt the rest of us are more real for an undertaker:
"And as my children grew, so too the bodies of dead boys and girls I was called upon to bury--infants becoming toddlers, toddlers becoming school children, children becoming adolescents, then teens, then young adults, whose parents I would know from the Little League or Brownies or PTA or Rotary or Chamber of Commerce. Because I would not keep in stock an inventory of children's caskets, I'd order them, as the need arose, in sizes and half sizes from two foot to five foot six, often estimating the size of a dead child, not yet released from the county morgue, by the sizes of my own children, safe and thriving and alive. And the caskets I ordered were invariably 'purity and gold' with angels on the corners and shirred crepe interiors or powdery pink or baby blue. And I would never charge more than the wholesale cost of the casket and throw in our services free of charge with the hope in my heart that God would, in turn, spare me the hollowing grief of these parents."

The book is beautifully written throughout, and thoughtful, and despite all that I've said above the author comes across as a man fully alive, who appreciates life but understands death, as a man worth knowing. At any rate, his book is very much worth reading.

< Tweet it! | Reblog
http://www.book-blog.com/2011/02/lynch-thomas-undertaking.html
Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Comments

1.

I absolutely love your blog! It is so professional and clean. Your reviews are clear and well written. I would love to know how you did it!

Keep doing what you love, just for you! Its amazing!

2.

Thanks so much, KW!




Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In


About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






The Sunday Salon.com



Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.