Review: A Thousand Goodbyes by Ruth Graham



A Thousand Goodbyes (The Surprising Life Of A Funeral Celebrant)

If you liked Adam Kay’s book, ‘This Is Going To Hurt’, you’ll love the joyously life-affirming memoir, ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’. 

When Ruth Graham left the world of stand-up comedy to become a funeral celebrant, she’d imagined a less combative career.  
Over a thousand services later… she knows better.
Probably her most demanding role to date, Ruth has needed every ounce of diplomacy, courage, humour and her wits about her to juggle the daily challenges. From grief-stricken families to amorous widowers through to plate-smashing, warring siblings and even a flock of stoned doves at a Rasta funeral. 

As the story unfolds we witness her new career developing into a 24/7 commitment. Will it break her?
Or will it be the spur she needs to get her own life in order?
Jaw-dropping, informative, moving and hilarious in turn, ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’ is a reminder that nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow; whilst encouraging everyone to seize their day. 

Two things appealed to me from the outset about this book. 1. It was about a humanist celebrant and 2. The author is from the Midlands, like me! Much like the best books about any subject, it includes much personal detail and is unafraid of exposing vulnerability on the part of the writer. It counterpoints tragedy with humour - how else can one cope with life and its cessation? It also doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of death: the family that doesn’t get on, the second families of the deceased, those with strange requests or who live in poverty. Graham treats them all with dignity and compassion. I also respected her willingness to share some excruciating moments - referring to the story-telling deceased as 'Jesus of Narrative'.
What shines through is the author’s great love for her families, a truly humanist stance. Graham isn’t afraid of the challenges that face her in her profession nor is she careless of this last great ritual that all of us will undertake for other people and untimately have performed for ourselves.
I found myself laughing out loud at some of the stories and the revelation that you don't have to rely on undertakers came as news to me. I wonder what American bloggers will make of the book? It made me think of 'The American Way of Death' by Jessica Mitford. I think what both books have in common is the intense non-judgmental interest of their authors, and that by examining the rituals surrounding death we are somehow coming to terms with our own mortality.


Ruth Graham has written for many publications over the years on a variety of subjects.

Initially working for Emap Elan on Period Living and Traditional Homes magazine, she then moved on to freelance for titles as varied as The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail.

A move back to the Midlands in 2000 brought her first big break with her own weekly gossip/opinion column in The Sunday Mercury (Trinity Mirror), where she was billed as ‘Ruth Graham: More Balls Than Your Average Bloke’!

She then went on to launch her own magazine ‘Midlands Homes & Interiors’.

Two years later (2007), came her first series of short comedy books, ‘The Bible Series’ (Know The Score Publishing). One of these ‘The Break Up Bible’ was cunningly launched on Valentine’s day, gaining great publicity, and a spot on GMTV and Channel 5 news!

Since then Ruth has written and performed her own one-woman show (Just Sayin’); become a celebrant; and subsequently collaborated with writer/performer Cat Weatherill on the British Arts Council funded show ‘Unforgettable’ – celebrating the lives of those we’ve loved and lost.

And then came the book ‘A Thousand Goodbyes’ – all about Ruth’s work as a celebrant, the people she meets and the bizarre, touching and hilarious circumstances that constitute the average day, and life, of a celebrant.


TWITTER: @CelebrantRuthG 


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