Reviews

All Reviews
  • All Reviews
  • Apparition & Late Fictions
  • Bodies in Motion and at Rest
  • Booking Passage
  • Grimalkin & Other Poems
  • Skating with Heather Grace
  • Still Life in Milford
  • The Despositions
  • The Sin Eater
  • The Undertaking
  • Walking Papers

Mary Park, Amazon.com

“Still Life in Milford is–perhaps unsurprisingly–haunted by death. Its author, after all, is that most celebrated of poet-undertakers, Thomas Lynch of Milford, Michigan. Evidently poetry and undertaking are felicitous occupations for one obsessed with the larger questions, and Lynch finds abundant material in the vacant eyes of corpses, in the pages of small-town obituaries, even…

Richard Bernstein, New York Times

“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.”

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 had just finished reading The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford, a non-fiction book about the “death-care industry” first published in the 1960s, and…

Reviewer: A reader Excellent work of readable honest poetry, June 16, 1997

Thomas Lynch is one of the great poets of our time. “Skating with Heather Grace” made me laugh, cry, think about life… and death… and the time in between. Even if you do not like poetry, you will enjoy this book. I have never read a poet more honest and creative than Lynch. Two of…

Kirkus Reviews

“Hot off the success of Lynch’s recent memoir of his grim trade, The Undertaking(1997), comes his second American collection of verse, which includes the poems published previously in a British edition. A solid though hardly expert craftsman, Lynch imagines himself a “witness” to ordinary life, even if he’s “better at elegy than commencement.” And it’s true:…

Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian: Home thoughts from Detroit

In 1890, after the famine, Thomas Lynch’s great-grandfather left the family smallholding in Moveen, Co Clare, in the west of Ireland, for a better life in America. In 1970, Lynch, then 21 years old, returned there to visit his last remaining relatives, from whom he inherited the cottage. Over the past 30 years his life…

Publisher’s Weekly

This powerful, provocative collection of 42 poems introduces a poet who speaks with authority and eloquence. Often his subjects are commonplace his wife, dog and children, his work and the poems are set at home in Michigan and abroad, in Ireland and Italy. (Several of the pieces are about Argyle, a mythic Irish character.) Like…

Susan Salter Reynolds, The L.A. Times

“The cruel radiance of life found in the author’s poetry shimmers in this collection of stories.”

Library Journal

“There is wisdom, courage,and great depth of feeling here. The pieces in this powerful, meditative collection are all beautifully drawn; the title story is a  masterpiece.”

Mary Park, Amazon.com

“…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 living did about the fact of life that people died,” Thomas Lynch muses in his preface to The Undertaking. The same could be said for…

James Cihlar, Star-Tribune: Minneapolis-St.Paul

“Frank, funny and moving, this catalog of loss and the lessons that come with it…evokes Heminway’s stoicism, Carver’s darkness and Flannery O’Connor’s irony.”

Poetry that strikes a balance

The poems in this volume are all concerned, one way or another, with achieving a balance in the face of gravity. Lynch looks for this equilibrium between equal and opposing forces, such as sex and death, and love and grief – all the things that make us mortal and memorable.

Chicago Tribune

In “The Sin-Eater,” Lynch once again brings together his intricate knowledge of the body and the soul, and the result is a luminous, humane collection that sees religion as a question mark, not a period.

Domenica Trevor in Ann Arbor Chronicle

“Lynch is a writer who chooses to call things by their proper names. Death is death. An ass is an ass. Love is bliss, except when it is something else entirely.  And when he puts his intelligence and honesty and lurking wit to observations of human-scale profundities, he finds solace in even the harshest truths.”

Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News

“It may be difficult to discern which is the greater influence on Lynch, his Irish ethnicity or his Michigan upbringing, but the result is a lyricism coupled with a locale of abundant natural beauty and an attachment to the offbeat characters who are its inhabitants.”

Mari Hughes-Edwards, Richmond Review

“To read Lynch’s latest collection of verse is to acknowledge the centrality of impressions swiftly created, sharply observed and vividly reported….The strength of this collection lies in the poet’s ability to open tiny windows into other people’s lives and to shut them again just as quickly, leaving us disturbed by possibility; surrounded by an unknown,…

Publisher’s Weekly

“With one ear to the ground and another to the heavens, Lynch renders poems that echo mortality’s solid thud. The combined perspectives of his two occupations–running a family mortuary and writing–enable Lynch to make unsentimental observations on the human condition, as reflected in Skating with Heather Grace (1987), his debut book of poems, and in…

Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“It’s a quietly exhilarating book, full of beautiful writing and keen observations.”

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 respectful about death and the grave than novelists like Evelyn Waugh or journalists like Jessica Mitford. Lynch lives by the old- fashioned undertakers’ motto, “Serving…

Clarence Brown, The Seattle Times

“Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans” by Thomas Lynch W.W. Norton, 296 pp., $24.95 Pause for a moment to admire the title, which is Lynch the poet at his best. To make permanent, in a book, what is merely transient, to freeze what is fleeting: Booking Passage. This is the aim of verbal art, especially…

Boston Globe

“Lynch is a poet…and he links disparate images and impressions with near-poetic cadence, bringing beauty and earthiness alike to life.”

Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Lynch has his finger on the bloody pulse of creation, and what makes him such a fine essayist is that it’s just the business of everyday life and death to him.”

Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Lynch first came to our attention in 1987 with Skating with Heather Grace, an extraordinary book about ordinary life that spoke quietly and directly to readers. Since then, he has distinguished himself with the award-winning The Undertaking, a fine account that expands on his profession as a funeral director. That job clearly gives one time…

Mary Plummer, New York Times

“A pilgrimage of sorts through growing old and facing death—subjects that caregivers know all too well. [Lynch’s] upfront, unvarnished style is likely to resonate with many who have come face to face with life’s most important questions.”

John Ponyicsanyi, Amazon

All poets who take their jobs seriously spend a good deal of their time pondering death. Few, though, have logged as many hours as Thomas Lynch, who for 25 years has been a funeral director in Milford, Michigan. As might be expected from a writer who performs “daily stations with the local lately dead,” Lynch’s…

Library Journal Review

“You might think that revisiting Ireland has been done to death in the rush to publish following Angela’s Ashes, but think again- poet/essayist Lynch is always excellent. With a seven-city tour.”

Sean O’Brien in The Guardian (UK)

“The elegiac elements of Walking Papers are interleaved with some striking public poems on the Iraq war and the problems of ensuring good government. Lynch’s poetry usually operates at the end of the spectrum where metaphor is less prominent than the possibilities of an apparent plain-spokenness.”

Kirkus Review

“Compassion, mourning, joy and wit all play roles in this tender, insightful hefting of mortality’s mysteries.”

The Cresset

The Cresset, Michaelmas 2012 (Vol LXXVI, No. 1, pp 18-27) The Mediator Is the Message Some Retrospective Readings of Thomas Lynch’s The Sin-Eater: A Breviary Brett Foster BEFORE EVEN READING THE POET THOMAS Lynch’s latest collection, The Sin-Eater: A Breviary (2012), I felt a certain satisfaction relating to it. A quick glance at the book’s…

USA Today Review

“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.”

amywelborn.com

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 it is profoundly expressive of our stance towards life, whether we intend it to be so or not: “…the meaning of life is connected, inextricably,…

Shelf Awareness

“Quiet yet soulful short stories and novella that offer intricate portraits of men and women at the furthest reaches of grief, longing and love. Lynch is a superb writer who combines a poet’s vision with a deep understanding of the human heart. His first collection of fiction does not disappoint.”

Bret Lott, author of A Song I Knew by Heart and Jewel

“With Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans, Tom Lynch proves yet again why he is one of the most important writers in the English language. Whether writing of the wonders of indoor plumbing added to his ancestral home in County Clare, or of a solemn funeral procession in the American desert southwest, or of a…

Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

“There is such generosity and grace in his work. To read it is to encounter a calm, observant intelligence. He is an original. Of that there is no doubt. His writing is lucid, measured and rich in exact images. Meditative and politely laconic, this is a terrific collection from a writer who thinks and feels…

The New York Times

If anyone, including the Prime Minister of Japan, still thinks cultural homogeneity something to brag about, he would be wise to catch up on contemporary American poetry. One of the wonderful things about Thomas Lynch’s ”Skating With Heather Grace” is its mix of accents and settings. In his first book of poems, Mr. Lynch shows…

Frontline

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 the living and the dead in a small Michigan town. Through the intimate stories of families coming to terms with grief, mortality, and a funeral’s…

Boston Sunday Globe Review

“He 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.”

Brian Doyle in The Christian Century

“Lynch is almost a stealth poet. His lines are so seemingly easy and effortless that you hardly notice the quiet craft as he just bubbles along telling a tale.”

Rosaly DeMaios Roffman, English Dept., Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Library Journal

First book, Lynch speaks directly and boldly, invoking ritual by bringing the reader close to its performance: “Soon as I am able/ I intend to turn/ to gold myself.” A Midwesterner who earns his living as an undertaker, Lynch writes poems that unpretentiously rehearse the dreams of the dying as they celebrate the everchanging relationships…

Los Angeles Times Book Review

“What makes him such a fine essayist is that it’s just the business of everyday life and death to him.”

Lorin Stein, CNN

(SALON) — Thousands of readers have already fallen under the unlikely spell of Thomas Lynch, an essayist, poet and funeral director in Milford, Mich. Although he has plenty to say about the undertaking business that he and his brother inherited from their father, one of the many pleasant surprises of reading Lynch’s essays is how…

John Burnside in The Scotsman

“Walking Papers is a wonderful new collection from Thomas Lynch, one of the most humane and necessary poets working today. If Lynch was on Mastermind, his specialist subject would be the hard-won understanding that life teaches, rather than the textbook “wisdom” that so many other writers cull from books, and, at times, he is daringly…

Keith Taylor in The Ann Arbor Observer

“Always a poet to celebrate the little pleasures, he has learned a kind of gratitude for them, a humility before the smallest gifts.”

John Repp, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Mostly, this fiction confronts the remorseless workings of fate. Flawed protagonists respond to the nagging sense that some crucial perception, action or consolation lies always just out of reach, and that dignity consists in reaching for it, failing, and reaching out again.”

Dennis O’Driscoll

“Booking Passage touches on Irish-American themes which are so fundamental that one wonders why they haven’t been explored this revealingly until now. But, then, who else could match Thomas Lynch’s perfect balance of American buoyancy and deflating (not to mention self-disparaging) Irish wit, tempering Irish doom with American optimism, romantic Irishness with American realism? The…

Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Powerful, unsettling and full of grace.”

At Home Abroad: Irish in America

By Jonathan Yardley, whose e-mail address is yardleyj@washpost.com Tuesday, August 2, 2005 BOOKING PASSAGE We Irish and Americans By Thomas Lynch Norton. 296 pp. $24.95 Thomas Lynch is just about as unusual as a writer could be. He is a well-respected poet who has published three volumes of verse and is a regular on the…

Scott Simon, New York Times

A lot of writers put life and death into their work. But for almost four decades, Thomas Lynch has examined what Auden called the “unmentionable odor of death,” those details that even the most unflinching writers usually dodge. Lynch, also a poet, is at least as well known in his village of Milford, Mich., as…

New York Times Book Review

“Lynch shows himself to be a master of the essay … he speaks eloquently in the voice of both poet and undertaker.”

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 collection of essays whose topics range from the scheme to use cemeteries as golf courses to poignant stories from his twenty year career as an…

Wm.Giraldi, New York Times

“LYNCH has added another chapter to one of the most memorable records in American letters.”

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 a small classic that ought to be included in every college writing textbook. At his worst, Lynch sounds like a publicist for the mortuary business.