My Father's Wake: Book summary and reviews of My Father's Wake by Kevin Toolis

My Father's Wake

How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die

by Kevin Toolis

My Father's Wake by Kevin Toolis X
My Father's Wake by Kevin Toolis
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2018
    288 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

With an uplifting, positive message at its heart, My Father's Wake celebrates the spiritual depth of the Irish wake and asks if we can find in it a better way to deal with our mortality - by living and loving as the Irish do.

Death is a whisper in the Anglo-Saxon world. But on a remote island off the coast of Ireland's County Mayo, it has a louder voice. Along with reports of incoming Atlantic storms, the local radio runs a daily roll of ordinary deaths. And the islanders go in great numbers, often with young children, to be with their dead. They keep the corpse and the bereaved company through the long hours of the night. They dig the grave with their own hands. It is a communal triumph in overcoming the death of the individual.

In this beautifully written narrative, Kevin Toolis gives an intimate, eyewitness account of the death and wake of his father as he explores the wider history and significance of the Irish wake.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. From the graveside of an Irish Republican Army execution victim, whose young son cries inconsolably at his loss, to that of the author's own father, Toolis provides a series of intimate, eye-opening visits with the end-of-life process." - Kirkus

"A heartwarming and very personal account of a life well-lived." - Irish Times

"A long meditation on death, dying, and our attitudes to mortality - our own and others'.... Toolis posits an acceptance of the inevitable which, while it does not banish the pain of grief, invests it with a resignation and a grace that is, in essence, healing and somehow life-affirming." -The Guardian (UK)

"As a boy, he learned to kiss the corpse at a traditional island wake. As a filmmaker and witness to death in many conflict zones around the world, Kevin Toolis has written a profound book on the culture of grief and death, placing the personal alongside the political in a vivid exploration of our ancient ways of coming together around the dead. This is a moving family story, a memoir of loss and exile, a deep understanding of what makes us alive, casting a cold eye on what is precious and so often denied." - Hugo Hamilton

"The 'Western Death Machine' has hidden the dead and dying, but in a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, an almost Homeric society clings to the old ways. The dying are treasured and tenderly watched over, the dead are honored with the ancient rites and rituals. Contemporary western ideas about death are dominated by individualism; My Father's Wake is a lyrical description of how community and tradition help us deal with our mortality." - Seamus O'Mahony, author of The Way We Die Now

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Author Information

Kevin Toolis

Kevin Toolis is a writer and BAFTA-winning filmmaker. He is the author of an acclaimed chronicle of Ireland's Troubles, Rebel Hearts: Journeys within the IRA's Soul. He has written for the New York Times Magazine and The Guardian and reported on conflicts around the world. His family has lived in the same oceanside village on an island off the coast of County Mayo for the last 200 years. He lives on the island and in London.

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