My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die

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Kevin Toolis takes the death of his own father, an experience most people struggle to speak of let alone write about, and uses it explore the meaning of grief and death and the celebration of life that accompanies them in his remarkable new book My Father’s Wake.

Sonny Toolis, the author’s father, died “on the threshold of seventy,” a still-vibrant, hard-working man who succumbed to cancer. But, as Tolois writes, his father wouldn’t have thought himself unlucky, believing instead that “under the sun, death comes when it comes.” It is this acceptance of death that is the focus of the book.

What Kevin Toolis so beautifully captures isn’t just personal, it is universal. In confronting the loss of his father, Toolis—a journalist and filmmaker—turns an inquisitive and critical eye on the way people in the West deal with death, specifically the turning over of the process of death to businesses, those who profit from loss. As he digs more deeply into the tradition of the Irish wake, he comes to realizations about what we should do, culturally and personally, to accept rather than fear death.

If, like me, you have watched a loved one battle any prolonged illness, this will be a hard book to read. But, if you are like me, you will see that is all the more reason to read it. After all, as the poet John Berryman said, “We must move in the direction of our fear.” Toolis’s brilliant book is a difficult, emotional, beautiful place to start.

Reviewed By:

Author Kevin Toolis
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 288 pages
Publisher Da Capo Press
Publish Date 2018-Feb-27
ISBN 9780306921469
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue May 2018
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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