This Party’s Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World’s Death Festivals

Erica Buist. Unbound, $22.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-78352-954-4
Journalist Buist debuts with a poignant and often hilarious look at “places where people respond to death by throwing a party.” Consumed by grief and fear after the sudden death of her fiancé’s father, Buist “decided to visit death festivals in the hope of finding out how others deal with death anxiety.” She begins in Pátzcuaro, Mexico, where “going on a Day of the Dead tour as a way to feel closer to the dead is like going to Disneyland as a way to study mice.” At the Gai Jatra festival in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, Buist sees death celebrated as a normal marker of life, and in Palermo, Italy, for the Festa dei Morti, she bakes cookies made to resemble a dead person’s bones, noting that “where there is contemplation of death, there is sugar.” Other stops include New Orleans, where funeral-goers “dance their way to the cemetery”; Madagascar, where bodies are exhumed every five to seven years, wrapped in fresh silk shrouds, and hoisted onto the shoulders of dancing family members; and China’s Qing Ming holiday, when families sweep the tombs of their ancestors. Ultimately, Buist comes to see death festivals as “an outlet for love.” Fans of Caitlin Doughty will welcome this entertaining and thought-provoking study. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 04/30/2021
Release date: 08/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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