Grave Exodus: Tending to Our Dead in the 21st Century

Leonard R. N. Ashley, Author Barricade Books $12.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56980-080-5
One in every five Americans is cremated, and the ratio is expected to peak at 50% or 60% in the next century. Funeral directors whose mainstay is traditional burial have responded to this economic threat by attempting to get people to spend more on cremation--whether on crematable caskets, urn vaults, quick-burning incineration or elaborate pre-cremation funeral ceremonies. Furthermore, the insurance and funeral industries have teamed up to create a multibillion-dollar pay-before-you-die business of ""pre-need contracts,"" with millions of people paying for their funerals and settling the details beforehand. In an unflinching, enlightening survey of the ""death care industry,"" Cronin, an editor and writer for American Funeral Director and American Cemetery, defends morticians, casket makers and their ilk against charges of zealous profiteering. Most funeral and cemetery professionals are compassionate and fair, he maintains, adding that even their seemingly blatantly commercialized options cater to a societal need to provide a respectful farewell to loved ones. He closes with a sympathetic look at the nascent ""natural death movement,"" which encourages people to tend to the dead themselves rather than pass the responsibility on to a funeral director. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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