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The Sin-eater: A Breviary

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  29 ratings  ·  5 reviews
Argyle eased the warm loaf right and left

and downed swift gulps of beer and venial sin

then lit into the bread now leavened with

the corpse’s cardinal mischiefs, then he said

“Six pence, I’m sorry.” And the widow paid him.

So opens the unsanctioned priesthood of The Sin-eater: A Breviary —Thomas Lynch’s collection of two dozen, twenty-four line poems—a book of hours in the
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Paraclete Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Pat Padden
This is a cycle of poems about a man with a singular occupation: in rural (read superstition-riddled) Irish communities, when a person - particularly an unrepentant sinner or one overtaken by sudden deadly calamity and therefore unshriven - dies, a sin-eater is called upon to attend the wake. He is given a bowl of ale, a loaf of bread, and a small payment, in return for which he consumes the ale and the loaf, thereby taking the unconfessed sins of the deceased upon himself and allowing the depar ...more
Thomas Lynch's The Sin-Eater will make you read poetry. Lynch is a fourth-generation Irish American who has followed the family business; he is a funeral director in a small Michigan town. I read several poems from The Sin-Eater in an issue of Poetry magazine and immediately ordered the book.

There are 24 poems of 24 lines each which follow the life, ruminations, and peregrinations of Argyle, an Irish sin-eater. A sin-eater was an itinerant "funeral worker"; for a fee of six-pence he would eat a
Sally Ito
I reviewed this book for Geez magazine recently. It's an interesting insightful book about a folkloric figure known as the sin-eater -- a man who would show up at funerals and/or wakes to eat bread and drink beer over the corpse before disappearing into the night. He essentially would 'eat' the dead person's sin, thus freeing him/her into the afterlife. Lynch has created a fictional sin-eater named Argyle and has written from Argyle's point of view. Poems are solid -- so, too, is the language -- ...more
Well done, as always.
Loved every line.
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Thomas Lynch's stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Granta, The Atlantic, Harper’s, the Times (of London, New York, Ireland, and Los Angeles), and elsewhere. The Undertaking was a finalist for the National Book Award; he is also the author of Still Life in Milford, Booking Passage, Apparition & Late Fictions and Walking Papers. Lynch lives in Milford, Michigan, and West Clare, Ireland.
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