From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death (Hardcover)
Okay, I'll admit it. I approached this book like I would a promising horror movie; I was prepared to squirm through a travelogue of the macabre. Instead, I read an elegantly written cultural study of what it means to be dead with dignity. Doughty, a mortician, challenges our Western view of the postmortem process, positing that most of what's considered "respectful" treatment of the dead is merely the handiwork of a profit-hungry funeral industry. From Here to Eternity also tackles our fear of death and its connection to grief—maybe cozying up a bit to the concept of death is, in fact, one of the healthiest ways to cope with loss. -Shawn— From Fall Booknotes 2017
Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Here to Eternity is an immersive global journey that introduces compelling, powerful rituals almost entirely unknown in America.
In rural Indonesia, she watches a man clean and dress his grandfather's mummified body, which has resided in the family home for two years. In La Paz, she meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and in Tokyo she encounters the Japanese kotsuage ceremony, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones' bones from cremation ashes.
With boundless curiosity and gallows humor, Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world's funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico's Dias de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light.
Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular--and, upon close inspection, peculiar--set of "respectful" rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process.
Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a story about the many fascinating ways people everywhere have confronted the very human challenge of mortality.