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Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

     by Harris, Mark

Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial

In this book the author presents an overview of the modern funeral industry as well as a discussion of green burial practices. In the first part of this book, he describes a typical modern funeral based on interviews with family members, funeral personnel and various printed materials. He includes details of the family meeting with the funeral director and includes average costs for various services provided. He also provides a description of the embalming procedure as it might be carried out in a present-day funeral home. In the second part, Harris shares the results of his research into alternatives to the modern funeral, including cremation, burial at sea, disposal of ashes in a memorial reef, a home funeral, burial in a plain pine box, a backyard burial, and burial in a natural cemetery in a wooded setting. Several families were interviewed regarding preparations for honoring their dead in ways that were meaningful to them.  

Going through the death of a family member is not easy, and planning ahead can make it meaningful and less traumatic. Some of the stories presented are distressing to read because of their very personal content, but this is also the feature that makes the book so compelling. The writing is compassionate and tasteful at all times. Harris gives general information about the legal requirements for caring for deceased family members and refers readers to Lisa Carlson's book Caring for the Dead for a more detailed state-by-state analysis of making funeral arrangements. Additional information regarding green burials can be found at and from the Green Burial Council at

Reviewed by mc, 02/07. Other reviews by mc.