Review – From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

Posted January 17, 2020 by Carole in 2020 Audiobook Challenge, Audiobook, Book Reviews / 15 Comments

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
Narrated by Caitlin Doughty
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Date Read: January 3, 2020
Length:  5 hours and 37 minutes
Source: Purchased

The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity”.

Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls) and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved ones’ bones from cremation ashes.

With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning – including a glowing Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre – and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

My Review

This was such an interesting listen!  I have been wanting to read this book since I learned of its existence.  I find the way that we handle death as humans to be a topic that I never tire from.  When I first picked up Caitlin Doughty’s debut novel, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, I had my doubts but decided to read a few pages just to see what I thought.  I couldn’t put it down and it is a book that I frequently recommend to others today.  I went into this audiobook with pretty high expectations and I am thrilled that the book was able to meet them. 

In this book, the author travels the world to see how death is handled in a variety of cultures.  It was a very eye-opening journey for me.  I had no idea how little I actually knew about this topic.  I thought that in the United States the options for dealing with a loved one’s remains consisted of a choice between burial and cremation.  I had no idea that in one community, residents have the option of an open-air pyre.  Why don’t we have this everywhere? 

I was amazed by the variety of customs associated with dying.  In this book, we see communities that keep the corpses of loved ones with them for rather long periods of time continuing their relationship with the deceased.  There were a variety of rituals from around the world explained.  Some of the scenes were quite vivid.  While I don’t think that I want to rush to practice some of the traditions explained in this book, I really liked being able to see how variations of how people around the world look at the process of death.  In some ways, I think that a lot of cultures have a much healthier relationship with the dead.  They prepare the bodies and care for the dead while in the United States, we are removed from the process leaving it to the professionals. 

This book is narrated by the author.  I think that she did a great job with the reading of this book.  The book covers things and events that the author has seen so I think that she was able to deliver the story in a manner that nobody else would have been able to do.  I thought that she had a very pleasant voice and I found it easy to listen to this book for long periods of time.  I ended up listening to the entire book in a single day and found that I liked the narration more and more as I made my way through the book. 

I would recommend this book to others.  I love the way that this author is able to educate others on the process of death and dying in an entertaining manner.  I found this book to be quite thought-provoking and I feel like I learned a thing or two.  I could easily see myself reading this book again at some point in the future and I can’t wait to check out some of the author’s other works.

About the Author

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 death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.

Author Links: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

15 responses to “Review – From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

  1. This sounds fascinating! I'm always looking for good audiobooks, so I'll have to give this one a go. Thanks for the rec!

  2. I'm not sure about this one. I think it might be a bit linked with religion and I find that hard to read sometimes. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm sure I would learn something. Great review!

    Anne – Books of My Heart

  3. Oh this actually sounds like exactly the book for me. Grief and death has always fascinated me, despite it being such a morbid and occasionally distressing topic. I read a lot of it through fiction but have recently read more nonfiction about it and have been looking for mroe. I am going to have to add this one to my TBR.

  4. Oh this sounds fascinating! I've read a book or two on funeral practices and found them fascinating so this really looks like one I'd like. And I already have Smoke Gets in Your Eyes on my TBR.