The American Way of Death Revisited

Jessica Mitford, Author, Ziegler, Author
Jessica Mitford, Author, Ziegler, Author Knopf Publishing Group $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-679-45037-5
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-679-77186-9
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-307-80939-1
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-1-86049-762-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-03931-5
Hardcover - 302 pages - 978-1-86049-588-5
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At the time of her death in 1996, Mitford had nearly completed this revision of her 1963 bestseller, a scathing critique of the U.S. funeral industry. Extensively revised, with subsequent additions by her husband, lawyer Robert Treuhaft, Lisa Carlson, an activist in the funeral-reform movement, and research assistant Karen Leonard, Mitford's mordant look at the excesses of the high-pressure salesmanship and lapses of taste of the ""death-care industry"" still rings true, and the book will evoke readers' ire. Mitford identifies disturbing new trends: cremation, once a low-cost option, has become increasingly expensive as mortuaries pressure the bereaved to buy a ""traditional"" funeral with all the accoutrements. Monopolistic companies have moved into the field and now account for 20% of the nation's funerals. Furthermore, she charges, the Federal Trade Commission's lax enforcement of its 1984 rule banning morticians' deceptive practices has contributed to an upward spiral of prices and profits. Other developments of the 1990s perceptively analyzed here include the refusal of many funeral directors to embalm AIDS victims and the growing popularity of low-cost funeral and memorial service organizations, which are listed in an appendix. (Aug.)
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