ASK Musings

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Monthly Archive: February 2020



February 2020



Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for: Anyone – from 10 to 100 – who has questions about death.

In a nutshell: Mortician and author Caitlin Doughty answers some of the most interesting and pressing questions from tiny humans.

Worth quoting:
“Sometimes death can be violent, sudden, and unbearably sad. But it’s also reality, and reality doesn’t change just because you don’t like it.”
“Technically, per the laws of the state of California, I am not allowed to slip [your dead hamster] Hammibal into your pocket, even if he’s just a small pouch of cremated remains. I’m not allowed to ‘bury’ an animal in a human cemetery. Would I do it anyway? Umm, no comment. (tiny paw extends from your suit pocket)”

Why I chose it: I’ve read both of Doughty’s previous books, and enjoyed them very much. I also attended one of the Order of the Good Death conferences (held in Seattle), which was fascinating and well-done.

Caitlin Doughty is a talented author. She has a way of making death feel less terrifying and more another interesting part of life. I find her to also be hilarious (come on, that paragraph about the dead hamster? That’s funny shit!). And in this book she takes her skill at demystifying the scary and uses it to help our younger friends better understand what happens to our bodies when we die.

Covering everything from fluid leakage, to burial laws, to how a death in space would be handled (along with, of course, whether fluffy is going to go to town on your dead body), Doughty finds a way to keep the reader entertained without ever being disrespectful. That’s a narrow line to walk, but she does it effortlessly. The book also has fantastic illustrations accompanying each question.

What more can I say? Go check it out, and while you’re at it, pick up her other two books if you haven’t already: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it!



February 2020



An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Written by , Posted in Reviews

4 Stars

Best for: People who enjoy stories told from multiple perspectives.

In a nutshell: Roy Jr and his wife Celestial have been married for a year and a half and are visiting his folks when a chance encounter at a hotel leads to a woman falsely accusing him of rape. He is convicted and sent away. This is the story of what happens next.

Worth quoting: “Is motherhood really optional when you’re a perfectly normal woman married to a perfectly normal man?” (This isn’t a huge plot point but I loved seeing that expectation of motherhood in print.)

Why I chose it: I’ve heard so many people speak so well of it that I finally decided to pick it up.

Review: There are many things in this book that I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine being falsely convicted of a crime. I can’t imagine my partner being sent away for many years, and having to figure out how to choose to live my life while apart. I can’t imagine trying to rebuild my life after getting out of prison. But I still related to the relationships in this book. Parents and children, partners, friends. These ideas are all explored under the stress of injustice and trauma, and it’s interesting to look at how everyone chooses to respond.

The book is told in three parts: before, during, and after Roy Jr is in prison. There isn’t a big focus on the crime or the trial; instead we learn a bit about the main characters, the false accusation happens, and we learn about the conviction. The middle part is told exclusively (I think) through letters between Roy Jr and various people – his wife, his wife’s best friend, his father, his attorney. It’s a well done convention that helps move the story along. The final part is told from the perspective of multiple characters who each have a unique voice.

I’m so glad I decided to read this. I don’t know why I resisted – I’ve said multiple times that I am not primarily a fiction reader but I think I need to suck it up that sometimes I’d rather learn more about the human condition from fiction than a well-written science book. I found the story interesting and well-crafted, and the ending satisfying.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Pass to a friend. I’m visiting my folks and will leave it in my sister’s room so she can check it out next time she visits.