Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was sent this book by the publisher after responding to an email sent to a librarian email list; they had extras leftover from ALA, and I was #ALAleftbehind, so I asked for a few from their list.

I knew of Caitlin Doughty but never read her earlier book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, which talks about her experience running a crematory and funeral home. In this book, she visits several different places that deal with death differently, either from cultural differences or people thinking outside the mold.

From going through my father's death this past year, I certainly was well acquainted with the incredible costs of a burial, and my Dad was fortunate enough to have a gravesite and gravestone provided by the government because of his status as a veteran. But I witnessed price gouging and how funeral homes take advantage of grieving families who feel trapped. It isn't pretty.

I hadn't stopped to think of how it might be different other places, how the racket might be unique to our country or that other countries at the very least would have different rackets. Doughty explores some of the standard expectations of other places and I felt like I learned a lot, from the Japanese crematorium experience (where the family watches), to the corpses living with families on an island in Indonesia, to the idea that a burial plot is only as good as long as the body is decomposing in Spain (and not a permanent space as it is in the USA.) Doughty also tells the story of how the way a Mexican town honors their dead is healing to her friend who lost a baby.

Such a minor part, but I found myself fascinated by the pages about whales... how their poop feeds an ecosystem, how their decomposing bodies sustain life for half a year! These are the things I brought up during dinner conversation. I was surprised too, but the way she has written some of the details proves hard to forget.

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