The timing of my reading this book was a little off. I had just lost my dog of 14 years to death and found the whole reality of bereavement too much to bear, so I put off reading this book and simply re-borrowed it from the library. Six weeks later I was able to read the book and not burst into tears at every page. Just.
The start of the book is pretty intense with Doughty talking about having to shave her first cadaver and the effects of cremation on the human body. How the skull of the man she had shaved turned to dust in her hands. How a film of human ash falls over everything. There really is nothing like diving into the deep end of a tough topic head first.
Doughty touches on the death rituals that many other cultures in their dealings with death which were fascinating, even if at times it came across as a little disgusting. She takes us into the real workings of a crematory and shows the reader the ins and outs of the business. The realities of the human body being cremated is on full display in exacting detail, but its no worse than an episode of The Walking Dead or and of the CSI franchises.
Doughty has a sense of humour, and it comes across in this book, but behind the humour is the willingness to broach tough topics that we as a modern society don’t like to talk about. She encourages us to make the most of the time we have with our dying relatives and find out what their wishes for their funeral arrangements are. She also talks about the growing popularity of cheap, no frills kinds of cremations that appear to lack the human touch yet speak so clearly to our avoidance of the topic of death.
This is an interesting book for starting potentially uncomfortable but necessary conversations.