cover image Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter

Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter

E.B. Bartels. Mariner, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-358-21233-1

In this offbeat yet heartfelt debut, essayist Bartels digs into the fraught topic of pet death, exploring the rise of pet cemeteries and other formal ways to recognize a beloved animal’s passing to the mythical “Rainbow Bridge.” Taking readers on a colorful tour of pet commemorations throughout the world and history—from the final resting place of Mariah Carey’s 18-year-old cat in Hartsdale, N.Y., to the “lavish” 1787 memorial Mozart hosted for his pet starling, where mourners were all “heavily veiled”—Bartels demonstrates that such consideration of animals is not a new thing, nor is it confined to the U.S. Indeed, as Bartels writes, “ancient Egyptians treasured intimate relationships with their pets; it wasn’t uncommon for an entire household to go into mourning when a pet cat died.” Taxidermy, cloning, and mummification may be extreme, but Bartels covers these often exorbitantly priced rituals (mummifying a pet can set one back $28,000) with pathos and wit, and lends her narrative a touching personal spin by documenting the demise of her scaled and feathered childhood companions, including, among her many “temporary pets,” an unfortunate goldfish—“the flushing/reanimation trauma was acute enough that for all future fish deaths, I switched to burial.” Animal lovers shouldn’t pass up this illuminating and thoroughly charming work. (Aug.)