Book Review #23: From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty (2017)

Review: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Published: 2017 (W.W. Norton & Company, New York)
Pages: 248 (Hardcover)
Genres: Non-Fiction, History, Sociology, Memoirs, Death Practices
Link Here

My borrowed copy of From Here to Eternity among my plants

Hello! The book I read this week was definitely a fascinating and educational one. I first heard of the author, Caitlin Doughty, on the new Netflix animated show The Midnight Gospel, where she was a guest star in episode 7 (this show is pretty good, by the way, it was made by Pendleton Ward, who also created the TV show Adventure Time). Doughty is a mortician who owns/runs a non-profit funeral home in Los Angeles called Undertaking LA. She has written two other books, and has her own web series called Ask a Mortician. She is a researcher and educator of funeral and death care practices.

*SPOILER ALERT BELOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE HORROR FILM, PSYCHO* –
…Norman Bates is the American Film Institute’s second scariest movie villain of all time, coming in behind Hannibal Lector and ahead of Darth Vader. He didn’t win that sinister acclaim by murdering innocent hotel guests wearing his mother’s clothing; he won it because Westerners feel there is something profoundly creepy about interacting with the dead over a long period of time” – Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity

I really enjoyed this book! From Here to Eternity is an investigation by the author into different death practices around the globe from California to Indonesia, to name two. She focuses on a variety of practices people and cultures partake in to care for their dead. Doughty is respectful in her approach, and tells her stories with humor and sensitivity. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart as there are quite a few more gross bodily functions and gory details discussed. Regardless, this book is highly informative and is relative to such a big part of our lives, whether you’re fascinated by, or scared of death.

When deathcare became an industry in the early twentieth century, there was a seismic shift in who was responsible for the dead. Caring for the corpse went from visceral, primeval work performed by women to a ‘profession’ an ‘art’ and even a ‘science’, performed by well-paid men” – Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity

I recommend this book if you enjoy learning about other cultures and their death practices, and if you want to learn some new things about the convoluted practice that is the American funeral industry. I was surprised upon learning how America’s way of burying their dead has changed into an insensitive and money-wasting ritual, and how uncommon it is for funeral homes to even consider providing families alternative options for burying their dead. One of my favorite parts of this book was the author’s passion. The reader can tell she is informed, and cares about this topic. Death is often considered a taboo subject, especially in America, and even for someone who is a little freaked out over death (*My hand is raised*), this read was definitely worth it.

We consider death rituals savage only when they don’t match our own” – Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity

I have to a admit, I was someone who thought a dead body was unsanitary and strange before reading this book. When my grandma died in January 2019, she was wearing her favorite gold jewelry lying in the casket during her wake. After having the jewelry on her dead body for two days, the funeral home took the jewelry off right before burial and when they gave the jewelry to my family immediately, my aunt gave me one of the bracelets and asked me to wear it, right there and then. This was directly off her corpse, and I remember being so freaked out. I wore it anyways. And don’t worry, I still have that bracelet.

I give this book a 4 out of 5! ⭐️

_Elizabeth

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