From Here to Eternity, Caitlin Doughty – Book Review

Hello humans! No, your eyes do not deceive you. I, Judith, am reviewing non-fiction. Don’t worry I haven’t strayed away from my YA roots, but I desperately wanted to share with you how good this book is.

From here to eternity Caitlin Doughty

Goodreads Summary:

Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish- granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

Find From Here to Eternity on Goodreads

I’m a morbid gal, have been for a while now, but I definitely still struggle with the idea of death when it isn’t in fiction. Death isn’t something I often have to face, thankfully, but when it does come around it tends to hit me pretty hard. That’s why I became fascinated by Caitlin Doughty’s death positive movement, which I first encountered in a video of her Ted talk and then later when I binge-watched all of her youtube videos. I have yet to read her memoir The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes but I hope to soon.

From Here to Eternity is a phenomenally well-written book, just the right level of science for a beginner without feeling patronising and with smatterings of humour that make this subject entertaining – without feeling disrespectful. In fact, I was pleased with how respectful this book was. You definitely get the sense that Doughty is aware of her position as a ‘white lady’ observing the traditions of other cultures and she handles this sensitively, even calling herself out when she feels she is acting like a terrible tourist.

If you have any interest in funeral practices, or even if you think you might, this book is a good look into how the western mode of burial isn’t the norm and that our funeral industry needs a drastic overhaul. This book obviously comes from an American perspective but there are a lot of parallels between US and UK funeral practices.

This book left me thinking about what will happen when I die, and how my body will have an impact on the environment, and on the finances of those for whom my funeral could be a financial burden.

This is a fascinating book that touches on some important ideas. If you don’t normally read non-fiction (like me) I can vouch for it being an excellent read despite the lack of fantasy.

My rating: 5/5 stars

All opinions are my own.

What say you? Are there other great non-fiction books I should check out? Let me know in the comments below!

J

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