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Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – November 26, 2002


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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345451201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345451200
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mustering more spunk and battery juice than his overworked tape recorder, 88-year-old Studs Terkel cranks out another eclectic treasury of oral histories in Will the Circle Be Unbroken? This time, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Good War takes on death, a universal experience that solicits plenty of speculation, caution, and emotion from his 60-plus interviewees. Regular folks--ranging from the deeply religious to the deeply atheistic--share their life stories and their hopes or suspicions about the afterlife. Some are well-known, such as author Kurt Vonnegut, radio journalist Ira Glass, and folksinger Doc Watson (who, incidentally, appears in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's classic bluegrass album Will the Circle Be Unbroken). Others, including parents, artists, medics, and clergymen, share equally compelling stories about losing family members, patients, and friends; personal encounters with heavenly voices; and apparitions. Terkel lies low throughout the book; his voice is only heard in the short intros to each speaker's story and in the chuckle-inducing introduction, which tells the story of an asthmatic boy--Studs, of course--who ironically outlives his family and dear wife Ida. The result is a vibrant tapestry of life's full process, sure to stir compassion and inspiration in adults at any point on the curve. --Liane Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the past, Terkel (The Good War) has gotten people to talk about their concrete experiences, like family, war and the Depression, rather than an event that no one can talk about after having experienced it. Now Terkel, a gifted interviewer, encourages the subjects of this book to talk openly about their feelings regarding life's final frontier. The raconteurs who share their moving stories in this collection range from emergency room doctors and paramedics to public figures such as Kurt Vonnegut, NPR commentator Ira Glass and country music guitarist Doc Watson. Each of Terkel's subjects brings his or her unique insights to the mystery of death. For example, emergency room doctor Ed Reardon says we fear death because we don't understand it, and that it's hope that keeps us going while we're alive. Country woman Peggy Terry observes that death would not be so frightening if "we've fulfilled ourselves as human beings, not as collectors of stuff, money, and bank accounts." Tico Valle, a young Latino gay male, reflects on the death of his partner and the significance of reincarnation for understanding the meaning of life. Finally, Emmett Till's mother, Mamie Mobley, poignantly recalls her son's sacrifice: "Emmett had died that men might have freedom here on Earth. That we might have a right to life.... If Jesus Christ died for our sins, Emmett Till bore our prejudices." Terkel's refusal to overwhelm readers with his own philosophical reflections and his willingness to allow ordinary men and women to speak for themselves make this a stirring and enlightening collection that will lead readers to think more deeply about their own hopes and fears. (Oct.)Forecast: This is bound to be another bestseller for Terkel, who will tour five cities to promote it. First serial was sold to the Atlantic Monthly.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

One of the most moving books I've ever read.
Polar Paul
The result is a book more about life than death, about the remarkable importance of every life and of every death.
"csegall"
Stud's Terkel is one of my favorite narative authors.
CaliReader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 71 people found the following review helpful By "csegall" on October 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In America, we have hidden away death and the dead. Insulated by modern medicine, by a culture obsessed with youth, and by a pervasive need not to accept our own limited nature, we have put death aside. Studs Terkel, in this eloquent book, has helped restore death to its proper and healthy place as something to be contemplated, understood, and, bit by bit, accepted. This book is a collection of interviews with ordinary people who express themselves with extraordinary eloquence as they consider how death has touched and shaped their lives. From this diverse chorus of voices arises an understanding of death as both a creative and a destructive force, of death as a shaper of life rather than a void. The result is a book more about life than death, about the remarkable importance of every life and of every death.
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Studs Terkel, a Chicago treasure and Pulitzer Prize winner, could not have predicted how the release of his latest book would coincide with the events of September 11, 2001, in an amazingly poignant and timely fashion. Like his other books, this one is a collection of interviews with a broad selection of people from all walks of life. Terkel, seeking a way to cope with the death of his wife of 60 years, Ida, set out on a project to examine what people thought about the one experience we will all have but will not be able to describe once we've had it: Death. The Prologue, interviews with two New York City brothers, revisits them from an earlier book. How uncanny that one is a fireman, one a policeman. I got goosebumps reading about events at the World Trade Center before September 11th. The stories are, when all is said and done, a celebration of life and, for want of a better word, "spirit." For anyone searching for meaning in recent events in America, this book will be a tremendous solace. The book ends with Mamie Mobley, mother of Emmett Till (whose murder in the '60's was as much the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement as Rosa Parks' bus seat) and I cried through the whole chapter. The epilogue, a story of two women and two children is the perfect ending of this examination of life, death and family. Had the events of September 11th never happened, I would have recommended this book highly. Because of September 11th, this book just has to be a "best seller."
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By R. Walker on March 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Maybe you think about mortality all the time, maybe you've never considered it for more than a moment. Either way, there are likely to be voices in Studs Terkel's most recent oral history, on the subject of death and what might or might not come after, that will speak to you. It's quite a range of speakers, young and old, funny and sad, religious and otherwise. I'll admit that some sections of the book were of less interest to me than others, but I've ended up giving it a top rating because the parts I liked, I liked a great deal. Also, as profound (and potentially depressing) as the subject matter is, the book is an oddly refreshing thing to read. I think this is partly *because* the subject is a big and eternal one, not something fleeting or connected to today's headlines. (Mortality, I suppose, is the one thing we all have in common.) And it's partly because the voices for the most part are so fresh and unvarnished -- it's common to complain that we don't hear enough from "real people" in the media (unless they're hurling insults at each other on Springer or whatever). Here a wide cross section of individuals speak their mind, and while a few are well-known, most seem to have been selected for another reason: they had something wise or thoughtful to say.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By James J. House on February 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I find it hard to believe that anyone would rate this book below 5 stars, but I suppose at 71 years on this planet and having to deal with the diverse people that I have encounered, I should simply say that it's not suprising,and diversity is exactly what this book is about, that is if one can clear old mind sets and place originality of thought in it's place.
Mr. Terkel allows this diversity of the human Psyche to play itself out in this well constructed biographical enterprise.
I personally found this book to be a refreshing and interesting approach to the subject of death and highly recommend it, unless of course one is still thinking that he or she is immortal.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Taylor on January 11, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a frank discussion of the subject that nobody wants to discuss: death. We all know it is coming, yet absolutely nobody knows what it will be like. We all have our ideas, based on our religion, our life experiences, our general outlook on life. That is what this book chronicles. Since nobody really knows for sure, the best way to face death is to gather as many opinions as possible. Studs Turkle does that for us in this book, gathering personal reflections from a vast diversity of people (including himself) covering the whole spectrum. When my wife almost died at 33 years old a few years ago, I was forced into thinking about death and what lies beyond a little sooner than I had hoped. This book helped me understand that death is not something you can control, so you might as well accept the inevitability and live you life the best you can. Some of the stories resonated deeply with me, while others I honestly skipped over, but I am sure there is something here that speaks to almost everyone.
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