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The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

(W.W. Norton & Company, July 1997, July 1998)

Indiebound or Powells or Barnes & Noble and Amazon

A collection of twelve essays, The Undertaking  is a chronicle of small-town life and death told through the eyes of a poet who is also an undertaker.  It was a winner of an American Book Award and finalist for the National Book Award.

“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.


Terry Gross, Fresh Air

Poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch has combined his two occupations to produce his new book, "The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade." (W. W. Norton) The work is a...

What can one possibly learn about life from the dead? A great deal, according to writer Thomas Lynch. It may even be, he reflects, that death and how we approach...

From Kirkus Reviews

Eloquent, meditative observations on the place of death in small-town life, from the only poet/funeral director in Milford, Mich. Poets like Lynch (Grimalkin and Other Poems) tend to be more...

The New York Times Book Review, Susan Jacoby

At his best, Lynch shows himself to be a master of the essay form. "Words Made Flesh," a tribute to the erotically suggestive power of a single poem ... is...

Mary Park,

"...I had come to know that the undertaking that my father did had less to do with what was done to the dead and more to do with what the...


FRONTLINE's The Undertaking, aired October 30 at 9 pm on PBS.  It enters the world of Thomas Lynch, a writer, poet and undertaker whose family for three generations has cared for both...

Alan Ball (Creator of Six Feet Under) Quotes:

"I cannot claim credit for the premise of SFU. The idea of doing a show about a family-run funeral home was pitched to me by Carolyn Strauss of HBO. She...

To arrange for Thomas Lynch to visit your program
or present to your organization, contact him
through this website or call his office at 248.684.6645.

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