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The Undertaking

Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

Thomas Lynch (Author)


A National Book Award Finalist: "One of the most life-affirming books I have read in a long time…brims with humanity, irreverence, and invigorating candor." —Tom Vanderbilt, The Nation

"Every year I bury a couple hundred of my townspeople." So opens this singular and wise testimony. Like all poets, inspired by death, Thomas Lynch is, unlike others, also hired to bury the dead or to cremate them and to tend to their families in a small Michigan town where he serves as the funeral director.

In the conduct of these duties he has kept his eyes open, his ear tuned to the indispensable vernaculars of love and grief. In these twelve pieces his is the voice of both witness and functionary. Here, Lynch, poet to the dying, names the hurts and whispers the condolences and shapes the questions posed by this familiar mystery. So here is homage to parents who have died and to children who shouldn't have. Here are golfers tripping over grave markers, gourmands and hypochondriacs, lovers and suicides. These are the lessons for life our mortality teaches us.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • June 2009
  • ISBN 978-0-393-33487-6
  • 5.1 × 7.8 in / 224 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“A startling and eloquent meditation on death and bereavement…If you think this book isn't about you, or for you, think again.” — Spin

“A memoir that is stand-out superb.” — Esquire

“Mr. Lynch emerges as a cross between Garrison Keillor and one of the Irish poets; one thinks of William Butler Yeats…Forceful, authentic, and full of a kind of ethical and aesthetic clarity.” — Richard Bernstein, New York Times

“[Lynch] is able to take us inside the palpable business of blood, tears, and the final verse of life in a manner that is almost shocking in the relief it delivers…[A] fine, sensible, and wise book.” — Boston Globe

“Lynch’s vivid prose has the electricity of writing that tells us what is going on in the secret places of the community—and the secret places of the heart.” — USA Today

Also by Thomas Lynch All

  1. Book CoverApparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories


  2. Book CoverBodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality


  3. Book CoverBooking Passage: We Irish and Americans


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