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

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

by Kevin Toolis


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An intimate, lyrical look at the ancient rite of the Irish wake—and the Irish way of overcoming our fear of death

Death is a whisper for most of us. Instinctively we feel we should dim the lights, pull the curtains, and speak softly. But on a remote island off the coast of Ireland's County Mayo, death has a louder voice.

Each day, along with reports of incoming Atlantic storms, the local radio runs a daily roll call of the recently departed. The islanders go in great numbers, young and old alike, to be with their dead. They keep vigil with the corpse and the bereaved company through the long hours of the night. They dig the grave with their own hands and carry the coffin on their own shoulders. The islanders cherish the dead—and amid the sorrow, they celebrate life, too.

In My Father's Wake, acclaimed author and award-winning filmmaker Kevin Toolis unforgettably describes his own father's wake and explores the wider history and significance of this ancient and eternal Irish ritual. Perhaps we, too, can all find a better way to deal with our mortality — by living and loving as the Irish do.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780306921469
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 02/27/2018
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Kevin Toolis is a writer and BAFTA-winning filmmaker. The author of a celebrated 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 village on an island off the coast of County Mayo for the last two hundred years. Toolis makes his home on the island and in London.

Table of Contents

Mortalities 1

Whispers 19

Origins 41

Voices 47

Unravellings 55

Intimations 63

Exiles 83

Ruins 95

Catastrophes 101

Changelings 113

Drifts 117

Hades 125

Gestations 141

Tombs 145

Gatherings 151

Forebodings 159

Silences 167

Fragments 173

Landscapes 187

Vigils 193

Remains 201

Burdens 211

Keening 215

Rites 225

How to Love, Live and Die 261

Acknowledgements 273

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