Thursday, December 1, 2011

Borrowed From the Library: The American Resting Place

The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds
Photography by Reid S. Yalom

Photo by Reid S. Yalom,
copyright 2008.

In writing this book, this mother and son team visited dozens of cemeteries across the United States, from the Old Burying Ground in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with stones adorned by the death’s head, willows, urns, and more, to the California's gleaming Hollywood Forever mausoleam. 

The Yaloms traveled down the East Coast, noting burial practices and the course of history at cemeteries in Boston, Newport, New York City and on to Philadelphia and Lancaster Counties.  The unique and quite probably haunted graveyards (aren't they all?) of South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana are covered, with a discussion of voodoo practices and the above-ground graves that are well-known in New Orleans, plus the devastating effects that Hurricane Katrina had the area.  Also visited were cemeteries in St. Louis (MO), Chicago, Texas, California and Hawaii.  There's also some information on Arlington and Gettysburg National cemeteries, plus a few others military sites.

King's Chapel Burying Ground,
Boston MA.
Photo by Reid S. Yalom, copyright 2008

The book’s last chapter, “Old and New Fashions in Death,” is an interesting and in-depth view of the many ways that people are attempting to give death “a more personal face.” 

If you enjoy trolling through cemeteries, as I do, you will like this book.  You'll also learn a lot about the history of cemeteries and burial traditions.  The author mentions her favorites, and those stones and markers she found unique in some way.  She does not focus solely on the famous and infamous.  She is sure to point out those that indicate a change in burial practices over time. 

If you follow so many blogs that tackling a book seems overwhelming right now, get this book from the library anyway!  Reid S. Yalom, the author’s son, has done an absolutely stunning job with the photography.  I must admit, that's my favorite part of this book. 

Native American Veteran Grave Marker,
reservation cemetery in Gunlock, Utah.
Photo by Reid S. Yalom, Copyright 2008.

I thumbed through the photos every time I sat down to read another chapter.  They are that good, that simple, that black-and-white beautiful, that heartbreaking! 

This book is a great cemetery walk, and I didn’t have to give up half of my weekend to enjoy it!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reader's advisory! Will be placing on hold.