Book Review: Death’s Garden Revisited

For my first book review of 2023, I wanted to talk about Death’s Garden Revisited, edited by Loren Rhoads. I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since early last year. I follow Loren on social media and was excited to hear she was editing another installment of Death’s Garden. I was an early backer for the Kickstarter campaign to bring this book to life. It was so fun to follow along on its journey. 

Here is the synopsis from Blurb.com: “Death’s Garden Revisited collects 40 powerful personal essays—accompanied by full-color photographs—to illuminate the reasons people visit cemeteries. Spanning the globe from Iceland to Argentina and from Portland to Prague, Death’s Garden Revisited explores the complex web of relationships between the living and those who have passed before. Genealogists and geocachers, travelers and tour guides, anthropologists, historians, pagan priestesses, and ghost hunters all venture into cemeteries in these essays. Along the way, they discover that cemeteries don’t only provide a rewarding end to a pilgrimage, they can be the perfect location for a first date or a wedding, the highlight of a family vacation, a cure for depression, and the best possible place to grasp history. Not to mention that cemetery-grown fruit is the sweetest.”

I received my copy, a beautiful softcover edition, in early November of last year. It’s 8 x 10 size really shows off the full-color photography that accompanies each essay. The short essay format, and writing styles create an enjoyable, and easy reading experience. If you are short on time, it’s easy to pick up and read an essay or two. I also enjoyed the range—from first-date stories to geocaching expeditions—each story shares personal insights into how easy it is to fall in love with cemeteries. Each personal story is so unique and at the same time so relatable, in my opinion. I loved these glimpses into others’ relationships with cemeteries. It made me feel less alone, and more comfortable in the fact that my own relationship with cemeteries isn’t that out of the ordinary. 

There was also one essay that I found pleasantly surprising! As a Canadian taphophile, I rarely read stories about Canadian cemeteries, as there seems to be much more literature on the historic cemeteries of Europe and the United States. So I was caught off guard when I found myself reading about a small cemetery that I had visited this past summer, in the small town of Massey, Ontario.

That particular essay did make me realize that not all the photos correspond to the essays they precede and follow. I had started reading the book with that assumption in mind, and when I read that essay, the photos that accompanied it made me question whether or not I had missed some stunning statuary when I had visited. After referring to the photo credits, it turned out that the image was indeed from a different cemetery. Just something to keep in mind as you read.

This is such an enjoyable read that runs the gamut of emotions. I think there may be a story for everyone in here. This would be a great book for someone interested in learning more about why people are so drawn to cemeteries. It’s also a great read for taphophiles, especially for those who are looking for kinship. You are not alone. There is a whole community of people who love cemeteries, each for their own unique reasons. 

Have you read Death’s Garden Revisited? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments. I am also always looking for cemetery-related book recommendations. Please feel free to also share any book suggestions in the comments. 

If you are an author and have a cemetery-related book you would like me to review, please reach out at hello@chantallarochelle.ca. I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Death’s Garden Revisited | Blurb