From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity

Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

Book - 2017
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Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. 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. 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. 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.
Publisher: New York :, W.W. Norton & Company,, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780393249897
Branch Call Number: 393.93 DO
Characteristics: xiii, 248 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Jun 06, 2019

You know how sometimes you end up on, as we call it "The weird part of youtube"? I ended up there because a friend mentioned this channel "Ask a Mortician", and frankly they have excellent taste in weird internet because I've been HOOKED for almost a month. Then I discovered there was a book and boy howdy did I want it. (And thanks to the wonder that is my work AKA the Public Library that had a copy, I GOT ONE)

I was a little worried that the funny and quirky entertainment side of the channel wouldn't translate to writing, but it really did and the book was making me laugh within the first few chapters. Death isn't something I, or most people really, like to think about but I definitely have lately. Finding out about the different ways that cultures handle death around the world (Aka not our regular ways in Western society) was morbidly intriguing and Caitlin honestly makes it fun and entertaining to listen to. The illustrations were a nice touch, because while I missed having actual pictures I can understand why there were none. (I found myself googling a lot later).

I definitely recommend the book, which I already did at work by slapping a STAFF PICK sticker on the cover.


IndyPL_KaseyP May 06, 2019

A wonderful look at death practices around the world. Doughty is funny, candid, and well-researched. She is an advocate of "green burial", and it shows. However, she provides a broad picture of culturally diverse death practices. I found this book to be fascinating and oddly comforting following deaths in my own family.

DBRL_IdaF Feb 25, 2019

Fascinating, and often funny, look at how people around the world handle their dead. Doughty's book shows that what's "normal" is really just what you are used to. But it is written with the utmost respect. Stories of stealth funeral pyres, cremation, folks who keep their mummified family members at home with them until they can throw a proper funeral -- sometimes for years!

Each practice described has its benefits and drawbacks. I discovered my mercury fillings are going to be a problem no matter what happens to my body. Cremation is difficult at high altitudes. How the use of painkillers in cattle led to a mass die-off of vultures in India and is creating a ripple problem for Parsi funeral customs. That's another lesson of this book - we're all in an interconnected web, here on this world.

CedarMill_SabrinaH Nov 28, 2018

This delightful death-oriented travelogue is equally fascinating and thought-provoking. While Doughty's first book made me start to consider the alternatives for my own body after death, From Here To Eternity opened my eyes to death traditions I had never even imagined. The author reads the audiobook herself, to great effect.

lauz32 Nov 10, 2018

This was such an interesting and enjoyable read! I loved learning about the way other cultures deal with death and make it a natural part of life. I was in Mexico for day of the dead so it was quite an appropriate time to read the book, and it didn't feel macabre or depressing. A great quick read.

Sep 14, 2018

This book is so interesting! I didn't want to put it down once I started reading. It came with pictures but I wish more were included. I ended up googling a lot of the scenes described in the book.

AnnabelleLee27 Sep 06, 2018

Doughty deftly explores how the avoidance of death and our current funerary practices have left us bereft and emotionally adrift when facing the death and care of a loved one. She explores funerary practices across the world and finds inspiration and encouragement for rethinking fundamental deathcare. The best part is that Doughty writes with humor, respect, and intelligence and I found her epilogue to be especially smart and moving. The result is an entertaining, thought-provoking, and worthwhile read.

Jul 06, 2018

The title is misleading. I expected a book about medical assistance in dying - its availability and how different countries erect different types of legal and religious barriers. And a book about palliative care availability in various countries. Instead, it's a book about funerals and grieving customs around the world. This makes sense, since the author owns a funeral home. A big disappointment.

Jun 30, 2018

A very knowledgeable read about how one is prepared for the afterlife, and how culture, religion, society, along with ones own core values and beliefs, heavily influence these preparations. Caitlin Doughty is not only witty but shares her own experiences as a mortician, as she travels to many distant lands in search of 'the good death'. An excellent read for those who are interested in all things mortuary.

liljables Apr 09, 2018

I loved Caitlin Doughty's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and this was an excellent follow-up/companion to that memoir. "From Here to Eternity" explores death and grieving rituals from around the world, allowing the reader to contemplate the concept of "the good death". This book tells a less personal story than "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" - it's more of a death-themed travelogue - but it's just as readable, and it will (hopefully) leave you questioning why we cling so tightly to our sterile, impersonal, expensive, and needlessly commercial death rituals here in North America.

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