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Many thanks to the author, Caitlin Doughty, for gifting me this book in exchange for this honest review.
When I first learned this was published I knew I had to read it. As an almost-mortician (I was accepted into American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service many years ago but never went) I really wanted to hear what Ms Doughty was going to say. Her writing is wry and emotional, and it’s easy for the reader to understand her quest to find out why death means so much to her.
The story starts out as she finds a job at a crematorium, then goes off to mortuary school in hopes of learning all she can about the funeral industry. Her motives are such that she wants to oppose the general business/embalming aspect of funerals and death; she believes in a “green” disposal, which may mean anything from cremation to being buried in the earth in a biodegradable container. Doughty feels that our attitude towards death is that of an ostrich in the sand; we prefer not to acknowledge it or prepare for it. This, she feels, is wrong. If you are able to come to terms with your eventual passing you will not have any fear, and it’s a healthier way of living.
The author illustrates this way of thinking in each of her anecdotes. Beware–this book is not for the faint of heart, as there is a good deal of description of dead bodies, what happens when you get cremated, and some near death experiences of Doughty’s. However, that does not overshadow the main thrust of the story; we can feel Doughty’s mistrust and discomfort at the funeral industry, and are able to learn why she thinks that way.
An incident that happened at a shopping mall when the author was younger sets the background for so much discussion of mortality: she watched and heard a young girl fall to her death from the second floor of a mall, and that stayed with her for many years. She developed tics and habits, to “ward off” death coming for her, and then realized that she could come to terms with it, as we all should. She feels that Americans especially are in denial about death, whereas in other parts of the world people are more comfortable; she illustrates this by including snippets of information on death and funerary customs around the globe, which I found interesting and enlightening.
Thinking about the end of your own life may seem depressing to you, but it is important that you get your affairs in order and not be afraid. It’s a lot easier said than done, but Doughty pleads her case well. She exudes a feeling of caring and encouragement, and hammers the point home that this is the one thing that brings us all together, no matter what race, color. creed or species you are.
I enjoyed the mix of humor and pathos in her writing, and would love to see something else in this vein. Doughty can be found at the Order of the Good Death online, and also has her own YouTube channel, known as “Ask A Mortician”. She is exactly what the funeral industry needs: an honest voice that demonstrates caring and empathy. I’d be honored to let Ms. Doughty handle my end of life care–would you? Read this book and let me know what you think. You can pick up your own copy [easyazon_link asin=”0393240231″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here.[/easyazon_link]