Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
In her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Doughty shared her experiences working in a crematory. Here, the author travels the world observing and researching rituals surrounding death in other cultures, bringing the lessons she learns home with her. She visits a technologically advanced columbarium in Japan, where robots retrieve a relative's urn with the scan of a keycard, and the only open-air pyre in the United States. In a remote region of Indonesia, she witnesses people tending their loved ones' mummified corpses, some of which are kept in family homes. In Spain, families spend time with the deceased, but only when the bodies are kept behind glass. Doughty views skulls that grant wishes in Bolivia, candlelit Mexican cemeteries on the Day of the Dead, and experiments with composting human bodies in North Carolina. She is the ideal guide on this journey, curious and respectful, eventually determining that as different as all of these experiences are, they're connected by the idea of "holding space" for loved ones-giving them time to mourn and a sense of purpose as they grieve. VERDICT Recommended for fans of the author and those with an interest in anthropology and ritual. [See Prepub Alert, 4/10/17.]-Stephanie Klose, Library Journal © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Mortician Doughty (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) catalogues rituals and cultural practices surrounding death from all over the world in this fantastic memoir, which is intended to "help us reclaim meaning and tradition in our own community." Doughty, a mortician who doesn't abide by typical American funeral protocols of embalming quickly and upselling products, relates practices-glass display cases in funeral homes in Barcelona, natural (casket-free) burials in Los Angeles, a mummified family member hanging out in an Indonesian living room for years before being buried- that will inspire readers to reconsider familiar rituals surrounding death. Doughty also explores the increasing corporatization of death and the growing popularity (and carbon footprint) of cremation. With humor and snappy descriptions, she also gleefully punches holes in Western misconceptions and prejudices concerning death rituals in other countries, as when a travel guide snubbed as a "ghoulish spectacle" the intricate, beautiful bamboo cages used in Bali for decomposition. Doughty's skillful book will encourage debate on philosophical and moral preferences for posthumous care. Agent: Anna Sproul-Latimer, Ross Yoon. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Doughty, founder of the Order of the Good Death, a nonprofit organization that advocates for natural burial and reducing the stigma around death, describes funereal rituals around the world while stopping to reflect on U.S. practices. In Indonesia, for instance, the Toraja keep the dead at home for several months or years until the funeral. The author also explores the North Carolina's FOREST facility, which composts corpses, and the Crestone End of Life, a Colorado nonprofit that performs open-air cremations. Doughty shares her reverence for the dead while poking fun at our fears ("gross as it sounds, I'd come back from the dead for a Diet Coke"). She forces U.S. readers to confront the secretive and profitable mortuary business and sheds light on cultures that celebrate death. If death is inevitable, she asks, why are we afraid to address it? As the Bolivians look to their natitas (special human skulls), we can look to them for a level of comfort and familiarity with death. "How would your ancestors deal with tragedy?" Probably not with a $10,000 check to take a dead body away. VERDICT Recommend this fascinating and well-written book to fans of Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.-Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Nonprofit funeral-home owner Doughty (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory, 2014) returns to her skull-studded soapbox demanding more truth in death. In her jocular but reverential tone a hallmark of her first book and YouTube channel Doughty explores death culture and grieving, from the open-air funeral pyre of Crestone, Wyoming, to the ñatitas skulls of La Paz, Bolivia. Her macabre globe-trotting reveals surprising similarities across cultures that, though wholly different, are bound by their acceptance and embrace of death. Doughty doesn't offer a simple morbid travelogue; instead, she digs into diverse death experiences with deep veneration and examines ties to socioeconomic status, female identity, and religion. With Doughty's consideration, the Torajan practice of disinterring dead relatives to clean, dress, mourn, and celebrate reads as a beautiful tribute to lost relatives rather than some Weekend at Bernie's perversity, making Western society's distance and sterilization of death seem far stranger. (Landis Blair's illustrations are instrumental in vivifying rituals that might be otherwise unimaginable.) Ultimately, Doughty urges Westerners to drag death out of the cemetery and face it with our morning coffee to recognize that in life there is death, and in death, life. In short: to show up for death before it shows up for you.--Uhrich, Katharine Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
In the follow-up to her well-received debut, Smoke Gets in your Eyes (2014), a mortician delivers a wide-eyed report on burial customs across the world.At the unique funeral parlor she owns and operates in Southern California, Doughty adopts a "younger, progressive" approach to burial protocol. Unwilling to accept the way that the necessity of "deathcare" has evolved into such a commercialized and bureaucratic industry, the inquisitive undertaker presents her globe-trotting experiences exploring and appreciating the eccentric and widely diverse death rituals across international cultures. In offering opposing perspectives that dignify, celebrate, and decorate the body in its expired state, Doughty hopes to do her part in spurring a reform of the funeral industry and to help change the squeamishness of Western attitudes toward death and the sanctity of the sacred burial. Her fascinating tour of rituals contains liturgies that readers will surely observe as rare, macabre, unbelievable, ancient, and precioussometimes simultaneously. Among them: a Central American body thief validates why he confiscated his grandmother's body from a hospital; a cremation via community open-air pyre in Colorado (the only one of its kind in America), complete with flute and didgeridoo accompaniment; mummification restorations in Indonesia; and the glass encasement coffins of Barcelona: "Glass means transparency, unclouded confrontation with the brutal reality of death. Glass also means a solid barrier. It allows you to come close but never quite make contact." In Japan, where corpses were once perceived to be impure, now they are revered as beloved and their memorialization has been fully ritualized with the aid of technology and innovation. Green, eco-friendly "human composting" methods also have their place in the author's entertaining and thought-provoking narrative. Grimly enhanced by the artwork of Blair, these observances demonstrate how to diminish the stigma associated with death, burial, and eternal remembrance. Death gets the last word in this affably written, meticulously researched study of funerary customs. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.