Thomas Lynch

Booking Passage
  • Booking Passage

  • In February of 1970, Thomas Lynch, aged twenty-one, bought a one-way ticket to Ireland. He landed in the townland of Moveen, at the edge of the ocean in West Clare, outside the thatched cottage that his great-grandfather had left late in the nineteenth century with a one-way ticket to America. Tommy and Nora Lynch, Thomas Lynch's elderly, unmarried, distant cousins welcomed the young American 'home'. In the words of the author, 'it changed my life'.

    Booking Passage is part travelogue, part cultural study, part memoir and elegy, part guidebook for what Lynch calls 'fellow pilgrims' working their way through their own and the larger histories. It is a magnificent hymn of praise to Ireland.

'Every year I bury a couple hundred of my townspeople.' So opens the singular testimony of the American poet, Thomas Lynch. Like all poets, inspired by death, Lynch is, unlike others, also hired to bury the dead or cremate them to tend to their families in a small Michigan town where he serves as the funeral director. In the conduct of these duties he has kept his eyes open, his ears tuned to the indispensable vernaculars of love and grief. In these twelve essays is the voice of the both witness and functionary. Lynch stands between 'the living and the living who have died' with the same outrage and amazement, straining for the same glimpse we all get of what mortality means to a vital species. These are essays of rare elegance and grace, full of fierce compassion and rich in humour and humanity - lessons taught to the living by the dead. Thomas Lynch is the author of Grimalkin & Other Poems (1994). His poems and essays have appeared in the London Review of Books and The New Yorker.