From Here to Eternity – Caitlin Doughty
From Here to Eternity – Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.
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 Días 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.
“Doughty is a relentlessly curious and chipper tour guide to the underworld, and the weirder things get, the happier she seems. … [H]er dispatches from the dark side [are] doing us all a kindness―offering a picture of what we’re in for, even if we’d rather not know.”
– Libby Copeland, New York Times Book Review
“Doughty chronicles [death] practices with tenderheartedness, a technician’s fascination, and an unsentimental respect for grief.”
– Jill Lepore, The New Yorker
“Doughty writes bluntly about open-air cremations, natural burials and body composting, bringing a little more clarity and a little less mystery to the question: ‘What happens to us after we die?’”
– NPR (Our Guide to 2017’s Great Reads)
“[T]he macabre travelogue is a thoughtful reflection and a smart critique of the American funeral industry, with plenty of gallows humor thrown in.”
– Smithsonian (The Ten Best Travel Books of 2017)
“Doughty finds the humanity in others cultures’ relationship with death that seems to be lacking in ours.”
– Justin Caffier, Vice
“This slim volume, full of captivating, enlightening, and humorous tidbits, is a―dare I say―uplifting exploration of what people the world over do to withstand loss and the bite of impermanence. This is death as viewed by a mortician: profound, unavoidable, natural, and a bit funny.”
“[Caitlin Doughty] presents a nuanced and compassionate view of the death practices of other cultures―and even of her own culture…Caitlin’s writing is always approachable…Whether you’re a death-enthusiast and long-time follower of Caitlin’s work or someone who has never given much thought to the topic of death before, From Here to Eternity has something for everyone.”
– The Gothic Library
“Doughty is well-versed in the aesthetics of death…With her trademark mixture of simple explanations deadpan wit, Doughty wants us all to become a little more death-literate.”
“Caitlin Doughty is razor sharp, and writes about death with exceptional clarity and style. From Here to Eternity manages to be both an extremely funny travelogue and a deeply moving book about what death means to us all.”
– Dylan Thuras, co-founder of Atlas Obscura
“[Doughty’s] fascinating tour of rituals contains liturgies that readers will surely observe as rare, macabre, unbelievable, ancient, and precious―sometimes simultaneously.”
Mortician Caitlin Doughty―host and creator of Ask a Mortician and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes―founded The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.
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