Skip to main content
Cover for The Undertaking

The Undertaking

Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

Thomas Lynch


List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A National Book Award Finalist: "One of the most life-affirming books I have read in a long time…brims with humanity, irreverence, and invigorating candor." —Tom Vanderbilt, The Nation

"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.

Praise For The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

A startling and eloquent meditation on death and bereavement…If you think this book isn't about you, or for you, think again.
— Spin

A memoir that is stand-out superb.
— Esquire

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.
— Richard Bernstein - New York Times

[Lynch] 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.
— Boston Globe

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.
— USA Today

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393334876, 224pp.

Publication Date: June 22, 2009

About the Author

Thomas Lynch’s stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, Harper’s, the New York Times, and elsewhere. His first collection of essays, The Undertaking, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Lynch lives in Milford, Michigan.