Published: September 28, 2015
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Memoir & Autobiography
“What does not kill me makes me stronger.” – Nietzsche
I was thoroughly impressed by this memoir and social commentary on death and dying written by such a young woman. Caitlin Doughty, at the age of 23, has produced an impressive, well researched commentary on how we as a society perceive death, talk (or not talk) about death, and view the body and what happens post-mortem. She brings the death industry to light as well as the options available for burial or cremation. She speaks frankly and does not gloss over details that some may find distasteful. This is a book written by someone who has spent a lot of time ruminating over what makes a good death and what should happen with the body. She has worked in various facets of the death industry, most notably a crematory and has attended mortuary school.
Admittedly, I approached this book with some level of apprehension, presupposing that a book about cremation would be awfully dull. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of wit and humor sprinkled within such a dark and morbid topic. The author is wise well beyond her years. The fact that she can discuss these topics and make them so riveting, compelling, and in some cases, downright laughable make this book not only a super important read, but a highly enjoyable one.
I am an emergency medicine physician. I see dead people often. One of the greatest gifts I can give a patient and family, is a death with dignity. Too often, patients come through the ER, without a hope of surviving a tragic accident or disease, yet everything is done to try. The more humane option in my opinion is to speak to the family about the prognosis and how much they want done . These conversations can lead to a much more peaceful end of life, and lead to a much more gratifying experience by all involved (nurses, physicians, family & loved ones). Caitlin speaks to the increasingly ever-aging population; the increasing physician-shortage, especially in the area of geriatrics; and the increasing need for care-givers for the elderly. These are critically important topics where increased awareness and discussion need to be held on many levels.
Caitlin speaks about the need for people to think about their own mortality and what they would like to happen with their bodies after their death. It is a huge burden to families and loved ones, emotionally and financially, to know what to do these circumstances when the wishes of the deceased are unknown. This is a book that everyone should read. It is a book that will hopefully change misconceptions about death and encourage more conversations. Death should not be such a mysterious process.
- What do you think constitutes a good death?
- What would you like done with your body after you die? Did reading this book change your answer to this?
- Are you afraid of death? What could you do to lessen your fear of death?
- Why do you think that society at large hides death and it is spoken of very little?
- What kind of celebration/remembrance would you like there to be for you after you die?
- Natural burial (being buried with embalming and without a casket) is presented as the most ecologically sound burial. What are your thoughts on this?
- Should there be a manual on the “art of dying?”
- Discuss some traditional ways of celebrating death honored by different eras and cultures.
- How do books like “Younger Next Year” and the “Fountain of Age” affect our conception of mortality?
- Have you discussed your wishes about your manner of death and post-mortem handling with your family and loved ones?
Caitlin Doughty’s Blog: The Order of a Good Death
Review by Rachel Lubitz that appeared in the Washington Post
Interview with the author published in Kansas City Star