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A fascinating study on the varying death practices that exist throughout multiple locations in the modern world. Before you run the other way, take a moment to allow yourself to be curious about the bizarreness of human death rituals. Why are we so afraid to discuss death and what happens to the bodies of ourselves and our loved ones when we pass away? Doughty constructs a way to keep the reader pondering how the funeral home industries of the Western world have shaped our ways of viewing the dead in comparison to other parts of the globe that value a unique kinship with the deceased. — Laura Knapp
In a time and age when death seems more commercialized than ever and America more removed from our grief practices than ever, Doughty reminds us there are other ways. For anyone who has a tendency to say Just leave me out in the woods or talks about wishing they could go out Vikings style, Doughty discusses death customs with the ease of any other dinner conversation topic. She sets forth not to make her readers as comfortable with death as she, a mortician, is, but at the very least to convince the death-phobic to examine why they feel the way they feel about death. It is not that death is inherently off putting, but rather that we have been conditioned to approach it in such a sterile, unsentimental manner, and if treating death as a business is something we have been taught, then can we not teach ourselves how to make it into ceremony again? — Hanna Yost
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.