Book Review: The American Way of Death Revisited

The American Way of Death Revisited By Jessica Mitford

This is a rewrite of her original 1963 book with new prices and new information. It is a review of the business of funeral practices. This is not what you see in Six Feet Under, and only a little of what shows up in Family Plots. This is not a book about individuals, but rather the business as a whole.

It discusses the costs of funerals, the establishment of “traditions” and what is and is not legal. The last part is the most interesting. There are a lot of “morally questionable” selling practices, but what struck me more were the downright illegal actions. Basically, the industry gets away with straight-faced lies. Business is business, but it can be run ethically, and hard-sell tactics are sickening. There are funeral directors who do care for people. There’s no doubt in my mind. However, I looked into working at a cemetary. I’m just not enough of a hard-sell for the industry. I cannot work on commision when I know that the money is being sucked out of a greiving family.

I’ve also made some decisions about my future funeral and what I want. And I’ve been thinking seriously about establishing a true memorial park where people can scatter the ashes of their loved ones and still gather for picnics and parties. I see a beautiful park with lots of flowers and trees surrounding it and a glen with something similar to the Veitnam memorial (more naturalistic in nature) with the names of all those who are spread there engraved in the surface. “Summerland Memorial Park”


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