Two years ago I read and truly enjoyed Caitlin Doughty’s debut book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which chronicled her journey from someone curious about the business of death into an advocate for seeking out what she terms “the good death” and changing the funerary business as it is now in the United States. Besides being an interesting story about her life, the book is basically a treatise about making death a part of your life, of staring down your fears and accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety of our modern culture is not.
I wasn’t expecting there to be another book by Caitlin Doughty, which is perhaps silly based on the work she does at The Order of the Good Death and Ask A Mortician so I was caught off-guard last year when our own Lollygagger raved about Doughty’s second book, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. I was so excited to find out that there was another book and one well-loved by our resident non-fiction medical/disaster/death reader (I hope that’s a description she doesn’t mind) that I promptly added it to my to read list.
Picking up where her first book left off, From Here to Eternity strives to demystify death and examine how other cultures deal with the rituals of mourning. Doughty remains the kind of author I enjoy reading; she takes a possibly taboo topic and makes it both welcoming and absorbing. Doughty believes (and I agree with her) that it is time once again, as a culture to become comfortable with what death really means, since it’s an experience we will all share. Our ancestors only two or three generations ago knew death, were familiar with its look, its smell. We now have an industry built around keeping these things away from us, and to what end? The book chronicles the travels to remote and near places to investigate people who are still intimately familiar with death and how they inhabit those relationships and those who like us are on the spectrum away or towards a more personal relationship with death.
Not every chapter held my attention so I find myself rating this one four stars as opposed to Lollygagger’s five, but it is still a book I would suggest to any reader wholeheartedly.
(This is neither here nor there but the cover art is beautiful for this book and the interior illustrations by artist Landis Blair, are delightful as well.)
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