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Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith

Studs Terkel

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9781565846920: Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith

A major new oral history from the Pulitzer Prize-winner, dealing with the universal experience of death.

At the age of 88, Studs Terkel has turned to the ultimate human experience, that of death and the possibility of life afterward. Death is the one experience we all share but cannot know. In Studs Terkel's powerful new book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? a wide range of people address that final experience and its impact on the present in which we live. In talking about the ultimate and unknowable culmination of our lives, these people give voice to their deepest beliefs and hopes, reflecting on the lives they have led and what still lies before them. The result is a book that may well be Terkel's most popular, a universal and deeply moving account of death and religion.

This is the first time Terkel addresses the whole realm of religious belief and of expectations of an afterlife, including reincarnation. Interviewing a fascinating variety of people, he is able to come up with an extraordinary range of experience and of belief, all of which prove far more complex than Terkel anticipated.

In the tradition of his books Working and Coming of Age, Studs Terkel addresses an issue bound up with all of our lives, yet rarely discussed on its own terms. From a Hiroshima survivor to an AIDS caseworker, from a death-row parolee to a woman who emerged from a two-year coma, these interviewees find an eloquence and grace in dealing with a topic many of us have yet to discuss openly and freely.

Terkel also interviews the vast array of people who confront death in their everyday lives, whether as policemen, firemen, emergency health workers, doctors, or nurses. Many of the most moving interviews deal with AIDS, and how the disease has devastated whole communities and forced people to face death at the young ages we associate with centuries past.

In a stunning capstone to his extraordinary career, Terkel introduces to us the variety of our reactions to life's ultimate experience.

"My works had all been concerned with life and its uncertainties rather than death and its indubitable certainty. But what about the one experience none of us had, yet all of us will have: death? We, as a matter of course, only reflect on death, voice hope and fear, when a dear one is near death, or out of it. Why not speak of it while we're in the flower of good health? How can we envision our life, the one we now experience, unless we recognize that it is finite? In listening to these testimonies, this book is about life and its pricelessness, and of a vision, inchoate though it be, of a better one down here as well as, possibly, up there."—From the Introduction

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Studs Terkel has turned to the ultimate human experience, that of death and the possibility of life afterward. Death is the one experience we all share but cannot know. In Studs Terkel’s powerful new book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? a wide range of people address that final experience and its impact on the present in which we live. In talking about the ultimate and unknowable culmination of our lives, these people give voice to their deepest beliefs and hopes, reflecting on the lives they have led and what still lies before them. The result is a book that may well be Terkel’s most popular, a universal and deeply moving account of death and religion.

This is the first time Terkel addresses the whole realm of religious belief and of expectations of an afterlife, including reincarnation. Interviewing a fascinating variety of people, he is able to come up with an extraordinary range of experience and of belief, all of which prove far more complex than Terkel anticipated.

In the tradition of his books Working and Coming of Age, Studs Terkel addresses an issue bound up with all of our lives, yet rarely discussed on its own terms. From a Hiroshima survivor to an AIDS caseworker, from a death row parolee to a woman who emerged from a two-year coma, these interviewees find an eloquence and grace in dealing with a topic many of us have yet to discuss openly and freely.

Terkel also interviews the vast array of people who confront death in their everyday lives, whether as policemen, firemen, emergency health workers, doctors, or nurses. Many of the most moving interviews deal with AIDS, and how the disease has devastated whole communities and forced people to face death at the young ages we associate with centuries past.


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

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