An excellently organized, sensitively written guide to funerals and their alternatives. Even before Jessica Mitford scored the industry in The American Way of Death (1963), people knew the high cost of dying, but Mitford pounced on the racketeering aspects, the Cadillac mind-set and rococo standards. This volume, more subdued and thoroughly researched, gives a more balanced view of undertaking practices--legal strictures and unwritten laws--and introduces the growing number of options in a matter-of-fact manner that those in mourning will appreciate. The non-competitive industry already includes perhaps ten times as many funeral homes as needed, one reason for those high-pressure sales tactics for costly extras astutely characterized here. But what will be most consulted is the information on alternatives: cremations (increasingly preferred), organ or body donations, memorial societies and other prearrangements. Appendices for state law variations, donor card forms, a description of embalming procedures, and a list of VA cemeteries. Essential.