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

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

The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity.”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 t...

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Title:From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
Author:Caitlin Doughty
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Edition Language:English

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

  • Emily

    Caitlin Doughty has done it again: dragged us death-phobic Westerners into the light of what grieving and death could (and maybe should) look like. In

    , Caitlin travels the globe and shares her first-hand experiences of getting up close and personal with death rituals from around the world.

    I found each section absolutely captivating, and although the Tana Toraja bit did give me a nightmare last night (seriously), I'm going to blame that on the arms-length (or maybe football

    Caitlin Doughty has done it again: dragged us death-phobic Westerners into the light of what grieving and death could (and maybe should) look like. In

    , Caitlin travels the globe and shares her first-hand experiences of getting up close and personal with death rituals from around the world.

    I found each section absolutely captivating, and although the Tana Toraja bit did give me a nightmare last night (seriously), I'm going to blame that on the arms-length (or maybe football field) distance we Americans prefer to keep from death. I still don't know what I'd like to happen to my remains after I die, but thanks to Caitlin Doughty, I have hope that we as a culture can move towards a more open-minded, natural approach to death that allows different preferences and options to be acceptable and attainable for everyone.

  • Ross Blocher

    is the kind of exuberant, passionate non-fiction I live for. Caitlin Doughty has a deep fascination with death: she is a funeral director by trade and her knowledge, enthusiasm and good humor are clearly evident as she describes and de-stigmatizes cultural attitudes toward death around the world. Many of the stories revolve around her own travels to various parts of the world to witness ceremonies, crypts, crematoria, and columbaria (places where cremated remains are kept).

    is the kind of exuberant, passionate non-fiction I live for. Caitlin Doughty has a deep fascination with death: she is a funeral director by trade and her knowledge, enthusiasm and good humor are clearly evident as she describes and de-stigmatizes cultural attitudes toward death around the world. Many of the stories revolve around her own travels to various parts of the world to witness ceremonies, crypts, crematoria, and columbaria (places where cremated remains are kept). In Colorado, one group has fought legal battles and intense suspicion to offer outdoor cremation. In Indonesia, families co-habitate with the bodies of their loved ones for many years: talking to them, applying preservatives, and bringing them out each year to walk the streets. In North Carolina, forensics facilities allow experimentation with human composting. In Japan, you might be given a pair of chopsticks to retrieve your loved one's bones following cremation, and a modern facility lets you hold up a keycard to trigger a colorful light display identifying their remains in one Buddha-shaped urn amongst hundreds. In Bolivia, some steal skulls from graves and keep them around to share advice and answer prayers. In Joshua Tree, California, a pilot program lets you be buried, sans embalming fluids, in a simple cloth four feet below the ground. In the mountains of Tibet, bodies are chopped up and fed to vultures: one of the faster returns to nature one might imagine (if one imagined such things). The book has wonderful illustrations by Landis Blair, which perform a crucial role: they let you visualize what is being described without the "yick" factor some might experience seeing photos. I, of course, did plenty of Google surfing to find the photos.

    Along the way, Doughty shares numerous fun facts and thought-provoking commentary on our relationship to death. In the US, death has become a lucrative business, and bodies are whisked away and kept hidden, and there are only two options offered: embalming/burial or cremation. She advocates for a more diverse, nuanced approach to death that honors the dead in the way they have chosen and that allows family time and space to process the loss, and also for death not to worsen our ecological crises. At the same time, this can be accomplished without compromising the health or safety of the living.

    I found myself jealous of many of the practices described here, and thinking about my own choices for my body after I die. I am an organ donor, and want any useful organs to go to people who need them. I'd love to donate my body to medical students or scientific study (my wife is against this, and she and I have had great conversations after reading this book together). In the end, I don't want to be embalmed, and would even prefer not to be burned - I'd love for my body to be returned back to the earth in the least invasive, time-consuming way, so my nutrients can go back into creating new forms of life. I'm hoping, by the time it comes to that, there will be more options available. If so, it will be thanks to efforts like this book, which I highly recommend.

  • Emily

    I absolutely LOVED this. I cannot wait to pick up more of Doughty's work and to binge watch her YouTube channel "Ask a Mortician."

    In this book, Doughty outlines all of the fucked up ways in which the US death industry is fucked up. She looks at expenses, dignity, and the seeming moratorium on public grief here in the states.

    In contrast, Doughty takes the reader along with her as she travels the world learning about other cultures' death rituals and mourning practices. This could have

    easily

    I absolutely LOVED this. I cannot wait to pick up more of Doughty's work and to binge watch her YouTube channel "Ask a Mortician."

    In this book, Doughty outlines all of the fucked up ways in which the US death industry is fucked up. She looks at expenses, dignity, and the seeming moratorium on public grief here in the states.

    In contrast, Doughty takes the reader along with her as she travels the world learning about other cultures' death rituals and mourning practices. This could have

    easily devolved into some gross, appropriative, fetishization of how beautiful and spiritual non-Western cultural traditions are. I mean, a white lady visiting Buddhist monks and remote Indonesian villages? I was ready to say, "No thank you, macabre

    "

    Doughty looks at different cultural traditions without a tinge of fetishization, and with a whole lot of respect. It's WONDERFUL. It's educational, it highlights how awful the corporatization of death is, AND it touches on the impacts of colonialism. I mean... I just could not have been more wrong. And I'm so happy about it.

    Doughty's tone in this novel is great. She's informative, blunt, and funny. None of these seems in-line with how American's typically talk about death (which is pretty much the point of this book). She pulls back the curtain, gives you honesty and insight, and makes death a whole lot less scary.

    Can't recommend this book enough!!

  • Ashley Brooks

    4.5

    In her second book, Caitlin takes us around the world to take a look at how other cultures view and treat death. If you're already aware of how bizarre, detached and corporate-ified the US is about death, this will be a lovely trip through some truly beautiful rituals and cultures. If you aren't aware, well, this might be a bit jarring for you.

    Caitlin approaches the topic with respect and just the right amount of humor. I can't recommend her writing enough, and would definitely recommend her

    4.5

    In her second book, Caitlin takes us around the world to take a look at how other cultures view and treat death. If you're already aware of how bizarre, detached and corporate-ified the US is about death, this will be a lovely trip through some truly beautiful rituals and cultures. If you aren't aware, well, this might be a bit jarring for you.

    Caitlin approaches the topic with respect and just the right amount of humor. I can't recommend her writing enough, and would definitely recommend her first book

    if you'd like to learn a bit more about the way our current death care system works.

    Also, moving to Colorado immediately because I WANT THE PYRE TREATMENT.

    Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me a copy for review.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I knew of Caitlin Doughty but never read her earlier book,

    , 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 diffe

    I knew of Caitlin Doughty but never read her earlier book,

    , 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.

  • Petra Eggs

    This is a brief tour of some of the world's strangest burial practices. In the epilogue, thanking people, Caitlin says, "Finally Landis Blair, who was an all-right boyfriend but is now a killer collaborator". And that feels like the key to this all-right, 3.5 star (at best) book.

    It feels like flushed with the deserved success of first book,

    , the author had decided to have a dual career as of funeral home proprietor and writer and had

    This is a brief tour of some of the world's strangest burial practices. In the epilogue, thanking people, Caitlin says, "Finally Landis Blair, who was an all-right boyfriend but is now a killer collaborator". And that feels like the key to this all-right, 3.5 star (at best) book.

    It feels like flushed with the deserved success of first book,

    , the author had decided to have a dual career as of funeral home proprietor and writer and had cast around for a subject to write about it. A tour of the world's more unusual funerary practices! It was so

    .

    There was a New Age funeral pyre in Colorado, the scraped-clean and dressed dead of Sulawesi brought out for their annual, communal party. Then in Bolivia, skulls it seemed everyone had in their home that they and bring offerings to ask favours of (and get blessed by the local Catholic priest). In another country graves are only rented and then the remains turfed out if the family fail to pay. The most interesting was Tibet where the recently dead are chopped up and mixed with flour and butter and offered to birds of prey who having filled up on the corpses fly off, and so it is known, poetically, as 'sky burial'.

    I knew most of these funeral rituals so it wasn't that interesting. But one thing really caught my attention. We are schooled to think of Buddhism as some ideal spiritual philosophy, something peaceful that brings contentment, despite one of the world's most celebrated Buddhists and well known champions of human rights, Aung San Suu Kyi's support of the state persecution and violence directed at the Muslims in Myanmar.

    But is this not modern thinking? This is what the Buddha thought of women:

    "The ancient scriptures tell of the Buddha encouraging his community of male monks to take trips to the charnel grounds to meditate on women’s rotting bodies. The motive of these “meditations on foulness” was to liberate a monk from his desire for women; they were, as scholar Liz Wilson calls them, “sensual stumbling blocks.”

    The hope was that charnel meditation would strip women of all their desirable qualities so men would realize they are merely flesh-sacks filled with blood, guts, and phlegm. The Buddha was explicit, claiming that a woman’s deception is not in her accessories, like makeup and gowns, but in her fraudulent garment of flesh, surreptitiously oozing grotesque liquids from its orifices."

    That was enlightening. For that the author gets upped to 4 stars.

    It's a good book, very readable, the insights and descriptions are very much of the popular science genre, not too deep, not too challenging, a quick read and light non-fiction. It does make you realise that a funeral is for the benefit of the mourners and the funeral directors. You might want to consider a ritual that is personal for the family, and less the killingly expensive pressure that benefits the funeral directors.

  • PorshaJo

    OK, this might sound really weird....but I've been to a lot of funerals. And I mean a lot. As a very young girl, I used to go church on weekends with my grandparents, and they would always go to the funeral home after church. It was always the funeral home three day viewings followed by a church service and grave site service. Many, many years later a family member passed and was cremated. I thought it the oddest thing, completely unheard of. I had many long discussions with my husband about it

    OK, this might sound really weird....but I've been to a lot of funerals. And I mean a lot. As a very young girl, I used to go church on weekends with my grandparents, and they would always go to the funeral home after church. It was always the funeral home three day viewings followed by a church service and grave site service. Many, many years later a family member passed and was cremated. I thought it the oddest thing, completely unheard of. I had many long discussions with my husband about it as I was so confused. I didn't know there was anything different. This book was an eye opening experience to see different countries and cultures and their methods of burying the dead.

    I found it fascinating to learn of so many different methods from an open air funeral pyre, to cultures who keep a body in the house for 5, 10+ years mummifying the body, to Indonesia where they prop up their bodies, to Japan where they have very ultra-modern places to sit with the deceased and where relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes, to homes that store skulls, and many more. Finally, to the one I found most fascinating....the FOREST. The Forensic Osteology Research Station in North Carolina. Here, bodies are placed on the grounds of a research facility and 'composted' providing a green burial. The author is a mortician and is fascinated by how people fear dead bodies. She is also quite rough on the American funeral industry and doesn't hold back. It is a huge area that makes tons of money. Your basic American funeral can start at around $20K and go up substantially from there.

    I find it odd to say I 'enjoyed' reading this book, but I learned a lot about how many in the rest of the world view death and how they bury their dead. The book includes illustrations that show many of the rituals and images of Mexico's Dias de los Muertos. I have not read the authors first book but it is one I plan to pick up soon. I can't say this is for everyone. Some might find it quite macabre. I found it a bit educational and it's one that can lead to many in-depth discussions.

  • Ammar

    fascinating book about the various cultures and how they interact with death, and the concept of the departed or loved one. were many non-western cultures perform more natural acts of burial, a non-industrial cremation. some use a pyre to lit a loved one, while others keep them mummified, and visit them often.

    The Japanese use chopsticks to pluck their loved one's bones from the ashes.

    Fascinating and written beautifully

  • Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin*

    I didn't enjoy this quite as much as Doughty's previous book,

    , but some parts were really interesting (Himalayan vultures with nine-foot wing spans) and others quite moving (people grieving their dead children).

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