Tag Archives: death

From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

image1 (19)I received From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by mortician Caitlin Doughty from a similarly death-minded friend. My friend and I have both spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing mortality for personal and professional reasons, so we are probably more likely to be the audience for this book than the general population who may be less macabre. 

I learned a lot about cremation and natural burials from Doughty’s first book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and found From Here to Eternity to be similarly educational about death rituals, but I enjoyed the overall book a little less. Some of the facts shared I will remember for a long time to come, but the journey to getting the facts was not as seamless as I found Doughty’s first book to be.

When Doughty describes global examples of grief and dealing with death and decomposition, she illuminates that the American approach to death hasn’t always been the way it is now, as most people believe, but I’m left feeling a bit despondent about the little room available to change things in America. I agree with many of Doughty’s beliefs that people need to be more comfortable with death, their own and their loved ones’, so that people can respect each other’s wishes and be more comfortable with grieving. However, I don’t think that people who are already uncomfortable with death will pick up this book and I think there are many powerful players who are committed to keeping Americans uncomfortable.

Publication Date: 13 October 2017 by W. W. Norton CompanyFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Caitlin Doughty web/@twitter/@instagram/facebook

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 1.00.11 PMI’ve been on the hunt for a used copy of Everything I’ve Never Told You by Celeste Ng ALL SUMMER, after reading and devouring her second release Little Fires Everywhere. After finally finding it (thanks to a dear friend!) and reading her two books, I can confidently say I’ll be reading and devouring anything Ng writes for the rest of our days. 

Everything I loved about the writing style of Little Fires Everywhere also lives within Everything I’ve Never Told You. Ng weaves seamlessly between multiple characters and it appears effortless (though I’ve never read anything quite like this, so I suspect it takes immense effort to give off that vibe). All of the characters in this novel are in one family unit, each with their own problems, personalities, and perceptions of each other’s problems and personalities. Ng makes each of them feel incredibly real, giving nuance to every situation that you find yourself identifying with whoever is the current narrator. (Can you tell that I could harp about Ng’s talents for days?)

This story revolves around the Lee family: Marilyn is the stay at home mother, longing for the time when she was one of the only women pursuing a science career in higher education. Marilyn was born to a single home economics teacher who longed for her a life of being a stay at home mother. Marilyn grows up in Virginia, where racism against anyone who is not white, as she and her mother are, seep into interactions directly or slightly. At university, Marilyn falls for a doctoral student named Jason, who is Chinese. The two eventually form a family and have three children who go to a mostly white school. While they each have different struggles in their daily lives, the book is centered around the sudden death of one of the children. What follows is a fantastic narrative of a family navigating their grief and relationships with each other, with all of their sticky every day difficulties piled atop.

Ng poignantly and craftily captures family dynamics, grief, and identity in magnificent ways. I can’t wait to read what she writes next. 

Publication Date: 12 May 2015 by PenguinFormat: Paperback.

Author: Celeste Ng web/@twitter/@instagram

Mini Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

theskyiseverywhereAfter being obsessed with Jandy Nelson’s most recent novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, one of my favorite reads of 2016, I was so excited to receive Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere. Unfortunately, I think my expectations were set a little too high for this. Nelson continues her magical way of slipping in different media formats into her books (this time around it’s poems and conversations written on slips of paper, crushed up paper cups, sides of buildings, etc.), but the actual story didn’t grip my heart in the same way as I’ll Give You the Sun. All that considered, this was a nice, innovative read about a young teenager who is struggling with understanding her own identity after experiencing the sudden death of her sister. I enjoyed reading The Sky is Everywhere, but I didn’t find myself fully consumed by the story like I was with Nelson’s other work.

Publication Date: 9 March 2010 by Dial BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jandy Nelson web/facebook

I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro

imjustaperson

I love Tig Notaro, which might just be because her mom died and she talks about it all of the time. It greatly influenced who she is and I relate to that. I always wonder if my obsession with my own mother’s death is because I was so young when it happened, but I don’t think that’s the case after reading Notaro’s account of losing her mother during middle adulthood. Loss of loved ones will always profoundly affect me because I love so much and I am a culmination of those I love and who love me, something that Notaro shares in her memoir about her own life. 

Notaro had a hell of a two years: she got diagnosed with a rare, potentially fatal infection, her mother died suddenly, she and her girlfriend broke up, she learned she had breast cancer, she experienced fertility issues, and so much more. This book details those experiences and expounds upon Tig’s wonderings about life, ties to family and friendship, and her place in the comedy and general world. It’s a pretty quick read, but I found myself pausing and ruminating frequently while reading. One memorable reflection was inspired by this quote,

“So my answer is no, I don’t have a need for my mother to ‘see me now.’ I just have the desire to see my mother again.” 

If you’re already a Tig Notaro fan, you won’t find much new about the life stories detailed in her memoir. The memoir is essentially written accounts of what is detailed in her stand up specials and documentary. Some readers might find this annoying and repetitive, but I didn’t mind it at all since I read I’m Just a Person about a year after watching her documentary. However, if you’re jumping into a Tig binge, I advise you to space out your consumption since it is pretty much a regurgitation of the same story in different formats. 

This was the first book that I’ve read in a long time that encouraged so many strangers to talk to me about it — someone sitting next to me on a train platform, the manager at a pie shop, any friend who saw me lugging it around. I was surprised at the great general interest in the book from passersby, but perhaps that speaks to the universal appeal of the fantastic Tig Notaro.