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Two Book Reviews: Candi K. Cann (2014). Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century and Karla A. Erickson (2013). How We Die Now: Intimacy and the Work of Dying

Candi K. Cann (2014). Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 168 pages.

Dr. Cann argues that the way we grieve and memorialize the dead has shifted in recent years. She carefully takes the reader on a journey that reveals the metamorphosis of memorialization and ways of grieving that are more private today, yet at the same time are brought out into the public sphere in creative ways via cyberspace, tattoos, t-shirts, bodiless memorials, and automobile decals. The author does an excellent job of 'presenting her case.' A real uniqueness of this work is the cross-cultural emphasis, particularly with China and Argentina, enhanced by her fluency in both Chinese and Spanish. She takes a comparative approach in relating memorialization and grieving in the US to that of Asia and Latin American cultures. Dr. Cann effectively weaves her own data collection via interviews into the literature review. This book is most appropriate for college students and post-graduate students (e.g., sociology, health, thanatology, gerontology, religion, psychology, anthropology, communication), as well of interest to a non-specialist reader.

Karla A. Erickson (2013). How We Die Now: Intimacy and the Work of Dying. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 192 pages.

Sociologist Karla Erickson's How We Die Now is a refreshing update to Jay Gubrium's Living and Dying at Murray Manor (1975). The ethnographic portrayal of a nursing home using participant observation presents an upbeat account about the aging process and dying - a glass half full mentality - yet the information is not sugarcoated. Her quotations and interactions from interviews bring the situation close to home to the reader. Good demographic information is given both at the beginning of the book and scattered throughout. The book presents insight from those who work with the dying. Her eight lessons from the end of life are especially of interest to any reader. As was true of Gubrium's ethnographic work, the writing is through the eyes of one individual and is about one particular nursing home, thus does not attempt to generalize to all nursing homes. Indeed, not all facilities for the elderly would fit the 'mold' of Erickson's Winthrop House. How We Die Now should be of special interest to students of thanatology and gerontology, but also to health studies and medical sociology classes.

Reviewer: Professor George Dickinson
E-mail: DickinsonG@cofc.edu

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