"[Lynch] writes with grace and moral clarity about the quandaries and perplexities of life, and life’s end.… ‘It is nearly impossible to overestimate the balm that language can be,’ he writes at one point. If we’re talking the language of Thomas Lynch, balm is the right word."
Wall Street Journal - Joanne Kaufman
"[Lynch’s] crowning collection. If you are familiar with Lynch’s essays already, you will enjoy rereading those unforgettable first lines from
The Undertaking.… This is memento mori and more."
"A wry, poignant collection of [Lynch’s] best and newest essays. [
The Depositions is] packed with penetrating observations about faith, family, work, art and, yes, death."
Star Tribune - Kevin Canfield
"These candid, eloquent, and often humorous essays examine the funeral industry and signify in fresh ways the connection between the living and dying.… Lynch reminds us to accept the frailties of life and the mystery of death."
"[Thomas Lynch’s prose is] blunt, spare and to the point, humorous, satirical, at times rising to lyrical heights.… Lynch has a sense of humor that takes no prisoners.… He has a genius for unexpected and sometimes shocking shifts in tone and subject, from frankly silly to tender to unbearably horrifying.… Few essayists have dug into these stony fields and come up with more treasures than this remarkable writer."
Hudson Review - Richard Tillinghast
This meditative, often emotionally affecting collection from funeral director, poet, and essayist Lynch (
Whence and Whither) explores, with personal honesty and philosophical curiosity, the intersection of faith, death, family, and vocation. It features selections from Lynch’s four previous collections, along with five new pieces. It begins with “The Undertaking,” an introduction to his trade that is moving and humorous in turns—the latter, particularly, as Lynch considers people’s frequent discomfort with his profession, noting, “I am no more attracted to the dead than the dentist is to your bad gums.” Despite this flippant remark, Lynch explores his work as a spiritual one. In “How We Come to Be the Ones We Are,” he recalls how learning Catholicism’s language and rituals in childhood informed his work. In “Y2Kat,” one of the standout pieces, Lynch views his first marriage’s collapse through the metaphor of the ancient, seemingly immortal family cat that hates him, again expertly straddling the line between comedy and tragedy. In the new essays, Lynch contemplates the potential collapse of his second marriage and the challenge of maintaining sobriety during dark days, among other topics. Providing an excellent entry point for newcomers to Lynch’s work, this assemblage is an erudite but unpretentious discussion of life and mortality by a master craftsman of language. (Dec.)
"[Lynch's] finest, wryest and most stylish essays about the human enterprise of mortality appear together in this collection...You will be grateful for these graceful essays, which light up so many of the dark details that are part of what is, after all, the one demographic to which we will all belong."
New York Times Book Review - Scott Simon
"Thomas Lynch is one of my favorite living essayists. His mordant humor and openness to grace and mystery are a tonic. I can think of nothing better than to have in one book this collection of his dazzling former essays, plus the dynamite new ones."
"When asked if writing about the dead affected her view of life, an obituary writer said ‘Yes, I divide everyone into two groups: the dead and the pre-dead.’ We of the latter group should be grateful to Thomas Lynch for writing about both with equal facility. His essays gathered here offer the pleasure of observing his curious mind dancing to the tune of his lively prose."
A funeral director and writer reflects on his life and profession.
"So I'm over at the Hortons' with my stretcher and minivan and my able apprentice…because they found old George, the cemetery sexton, dead in his bed." This is vintage Lynch (
Whence and Whither: On Lives and Living, 2019, etc.). A published poet of "internationally unheard of poems," the author is witty and wise, wry and humorous. If he gets a tad mawkish at times, so be it. He's been the only mortician in a small Michigan town for more than four decades, and he respects his profession and the people he buries and their kin. It's an honorable trade, and he's been writing engagingly about it for years. This collection contains 18 pieces from a few of his books as well as a handful of new essays. Lynch writes about embalming, cremating, and burying the old, young children, babies, a beloved cousin in Ireland, his father, two dogs, and the remains of a friend, which he scattered in a Scottish river. The author saw his first dead body with his undertaker father when he was a young boy. In his foreword, Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball writes that reading Lynch is "to suddenly be able to see what it's like to be comfortable with mortality. To respect it but not fear it. To see both the absurdity and beauty of death, sometimes simultaneously." In addition to chronicling his tasks as an undertaker, Lynch writes about his fluctuating faith, family, two wives, and friends in Ireland, where he often goes to live in an inherited cottage in West Clare. He shares his kooky business plan for a Golfatorium and his general disdain for Jessica Mitford's "muckraking" The American Way of Death. In one of his poems, he writes, "Like politics, all funerals are local."
Thoughtfully crafted musings about life and death.