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Her Fine Eyes

Caustic reviews of YA books I adore. 

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The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Kiersten White

The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade - Thomas Lynch

Beautifully, poetically written. An important contribution to the discussion of death (which is not addressed enough in this country). 


I was most fond of Lynch's personal take on mortuary science: for example, how being an undertaker caused his father to see danger in every activity his kids engaged in; how the worries his father had, and the stern lectures he gave his kids of what can happen to you if you're not careful aged as the children aged.


There were some political essays that were less successful. In his diatribe about Jack Kevorkian, Lynch loses focus on Kevorkian as a borderline sociopath, and (perhaps because Lynch is Catholic) condemns all assisted dying without seeing any other sides to the issue. The discussion about abortion was written passionately, but with such winding language, it was surprisingly difficult to understand his point. 


I really loved his story about pooping in the field at his Irish family's very rural homestead, and the notion that sanitation has in some ways removed us from the baser things that make us human--the things that might make us live with and understand death better. I also loved the picture he painted of our past history in America, where you were born at home, you fell in love in the parlor, you gave birth at home, you aged in your own bed, and you were laid out on ice in your parlor before you were buried. Funeral homes, embalming, and impersonal machinery that lowers caskets into holes after the families have left the cemetery remove us from death, as if it's something dirty to be avoided or ashamed of.


This book is also secretly a celebration of small town life, and of the changes that communities go through over the years as they grow and modernize.