393: American Afterlife by Kate Sweeney

by Gerard


393: Sweeney, Kate. American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2014. 232 pp. ISBN 978-0-8203-4600-7. Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 390: Customs and etiquette
  • 393: Death customs

Every 14 seconds, some one dies in the United States. But how do we mourn those deaths? How do current mourning practices compare to those of the past? And what do new innovations and practices in the funerary industry have to say about the social landscape of the country? Kate Sweeney’s American Afterlife looks at all these facets of the American funerary, burial, and death services to get a picture of how we deal with the loss of a loved one. Her book covers many unique aspects of the death business, from different methods of burial and remembrance to urn sellers to memorial photographers and more. Sweeney’s book is much like Mary Roach’s Stiff  but without any of the humor. Her voyeuristic in-roads into the America death industry are eye-opening but fall a bit short of ground-breaking. The writing is good, but overall, I wanted more, something that address some greater realities about mourning and mourners. If you’re interested in some of the newer aspects of the funerary business, such as turning loved ones into coral reefs or buying your own urn or the legality of roadside memorials, then you’ll get some answers here. For anything else, you’ll have to look elsewhere.