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Surprisingly quick enjoyable read Not super emotional, but very human. Ranging from the quirky to the creepy to the profoundly moving, Sweeney guides readers through a number of stops along that Via Negativa we tend to ignore, the Way of Death Whether she is examining the decline of obituary writing in American newspapers or anatomizing the grief of a mother who maintains a roadside memorial where her daughter perished, Sweeney writes with a keen eye and a ready wit that never forgets the power and pathos of death There are parts of the book that will make you laugh out loud see online urns and parts that will have you using up Kleenex see memorial photographer Throughout you will be in the hands of a first rate storyteller who has the confidence to let the facts speak for themselves, and the grace to assess and assuage the emotional trials that make many of us avoid and some of us obsess over death, dying, and how to remember the dead. According to the author, I am like most Americans in my avoidance of death and my hopeful belief that it is something I will not have to personally address until much late in life What is fantastic about Sweeny s book is that it ushers us into the world of death gently, with a guide who is just as nervous as we are about the foreign customs taking place It also forces one to think about death in a productive wayHow would I like to be memorialized How would I react when faced with the death of a loved one And presents us with the full range of quirky and fascinating subcultures that are hidden just out of our view This is a very funny and moving book, and also one of those engaging non fiction books that presents fun facts and opinions that you instantly want to share a passage with the person next to you A wonderful piece of journalism about a topic you might not expect to enjoy reading about Also features gorgeous cover art to show off on your coffee table 5 1 2 stars I wasn t quite sure what to expect from this book when I got it from Netgalley to review I ve read a few books from medical examiners that talks about the body but this books talks specifically about how those remaining deal with death I was really surprised with how interesting and unusual the book was I kept reading bits of it aloud to those around me and mentioning it in conversation When you consider the topic of this book that s pretty impressive Sweeney presented a wide variety of information in a way that was both extremely informative and retainable I kind of feel like I m an expert on funerary practices at the moment I m not sure when that will come in handy but if you want to know the differences in handling grief over the last 100 years I m your girl Sweeney is going on my short list of authors to keep an eye on If she managed to make the subject of death fascinating, non morbid and non judgmental she could probably make just about any subject fascinating. 3.5 stars, probably, but I ll round up.This was an enjoyable peak into American mourning customs and the culture that surround them, from a look inside funeral homes themselves into newer and off beat funerary rights like reef balls and even those memorial markers you find by the side of the road Far and away my favorite part, though, were the interim chapters that dove inside what Sweeney dubbed the dismal trades These were little vignettes inside the lives of people who worked in the death industry, from chaplains to obituary writers to a woman who did postmortem photo shoots of parents with their deceased infants I could have read an entire book just of these I could have read an entire book on each of these people individually and indeed, I did, stopping to read The Dead Beat, a book all about writing obituaries and the people who do that for a living There was, unfortunately, some misinformation about the funeral industry there always is regarding things like the legality and safety around embalming though there was a whole chapter about green burial, which I appreciated immensely , which did unfortunately mean I had to knock some points off However, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and sometimes tear jerking look into the lives of everyday Americans who have to decide what to do with their bodies and the bodies of those they love when they die, and inside the lives of the people who do the taking care. I ve had this book for awhile, as I was drawn to the cover art and curious to see if there was anything new on this topic that I haven t read about before, and now that I ve finally read it there were definitely some new things in here for me I really appreciated the chapter on Oakland Cemetery as I love that place It s gorgeous And the newest thing I learned about was the perpetual pet business, that you can freeze dry your pet I think this book has brought up thoughts for me about how we process death, and I wonder now what I think about preferences for burial versus cremation, and whether it signifies how we deal with grief and death In many ways, I understand the idea of cremation as a way to not have to deal with death and decay, while, at the same time, knowing that person or pet is no longer there, and all that s left is ashes is horrifying to me I definitely romanticize the green burial, being buried in a beautiful natural setting in a shroud and wooden coffin, however, not protected from the elements and quick to rot and decay, returning to the Earth At the same time, I can see the appeal of embalming and even freeze drying to try and allow the person or pet s body to exist as long as possible, or even forever Perpetual Pet states now you never have to let go on their website I m torn and, probably like most people, try not to think about it I d definitely want the traditional mourning period with the body, as I d want to spend as much time as possible with the loved one before burial or cremation or whatever I think death is hard to deal with regardless of what happens to the body at the end, and I think that s the message of this book. thanks for this beautifully put together and well researched study of death practices in america fascinating and wonderfully done i would put this next to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes well done, Kate. Very interesting look at American funeral customs. Every once in a while I actually pay money for a book and in this case I rather wish I hadn t Usually I go into a positives vs negatives analysis on books but in this case I think I ll opt for of a this is what this book is concept.Firstly, what I expected was hard non fiction I wanted a tightly connected book that described the history of funeral practices in some level of detail Instead what this book gives you is a rather loose cobbling together of a few historical tidbits and a surprising amount of memoir Imagine something of the form, roadside memorials have become increasingly popular Steve built a roadside memorial in 1976 when his wife died in a terrible accident She was blonde haired and blue eyed and stood 5 8 with a wispy figure and a penchant for pancakes that would make any man weak in the knees OK, I m making all that up but that s the general form we re talking about The book seems to be about 15% history, 15% current day practices and 70% personal anecdote from the author s time writing the book It s well written certainly and entertaining in some ways but it s completely not what I expected when I plunked hit the buy button.The second important thing to know is that the book is not really terribly historical The first chapter talks about funeral practices of days gone by from hair jewelry to cooling boards but the second chapter is about memorial tattoos and from there we re very much stuck in the present day So this is a book about TODAY and only remotely historical.In summary, it s entirely possible that you ll love this book The author is a good writer and entertaining in a certain sense of the word but you should not buy this book with the idea that it s going to teach you much about the history of the mourning process It contains a plethora of anecdotes both relevant and not some entertaining and some not but if you, like I was, are just looking for an exploration of the morbid history of how we deal with those most final of destinations this isn t that book Mary Roach s Stiff is probably your cup of tea. `DOWNLOAD EPUB ☟ American Afterlife ☝ Someone Dies What Happens Next A Family Inters Its Matriarch S Ashes On The Floor Of The Atlantic Another Holds A Memorial Weenie Roast At A Green Burial Cemetery An Ad For Embalming Fluid Promises, You Can Make Mummies With It While A Contemporary Leading Burial Vault Is Touted As Impervious To The Elements Years Ago, A Grieving Mother Might Tend A Garden At Her Daughter S Grave Today, She Might Tend The Roadside Memorial She Erected At The Spot Her Daughter Was Killed One Woman Wears A Locket Containing Her Brother S Hair, The Other, A Necklace Containing His Ashes Someone Dies What Happens Next Depends Both Upon Our Personal Stories And Where Those Stories Fall In A Larger Tale That Of Death In America It S A Powerful Tale, Yet It S Usually Hidden From Our Everyday Lives Until It Happens To Us American Afterlife Explores The Experiences Of Individual Americans Involved With Death In A Culture Where Even Discussing Such Things Is Practically Taboo These Chapters Follow Ordinary People Making Memorial Choices As Well As The Purveyors Of Those Choices To Investigate How We Memorialize Our Dead, Where These Practices Came From, And What This Says About UsThe Details In These Personal Stories Build Upon One Another To Reveal A Landscape That S Usually Hidden In Our Ordinary Lives Until The Day It S Not At Once Strange And Familiar, And By Turns Odd, Poignant, And Funny, American Afterlife Brings Fresh Insight To The Oldest Of Concerns