Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre%E2%80%94How We Dignify the Dead

Sarah Murray. St. Martin's, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-53302-1
Murray (Moveable Feasts) takes readers on a charming and informative tour of how different cultures dispose of and mourn their dead. We follow her to an elaborate royal cremation in Bali, where sadness and signs of grief are discouraged (for fear they'll impede the soul's journey to the next life), and to Ghana, where Murray has her own coffin commissioned in the shape of the Empire State building. No matter how far-flung the location—in Sagada, the Philippines, where caskets hang from cliff faces, or the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, where mummified corpses still wear their 18th-century trappings—Murray's mind wanders back to the English countryside, where her father had recently died. Despite being a lifelong atheist, her father had requested his ashes to be scattered in a churchyard—a move that has left his daughter perplexed. Part cultural study, part eulogy for the author's beloved "Fa," and part meditation on coming to grips with mortality, the book concludes with the author creating a novel solution for her own final arrangements, one that matches her wit, ebullience, and joie de vivre that permeates her story and make it difficult to put down. In less capable hands the subject matter might be morbid or disturbing, but with Murray at the helm, this journey in search of death is full of life. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-8929-9
Paperback - 266 pages - 978-0-9558771-3-1
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-1-250-01565-5
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