This quick and oddly enjoyable book provides no nonsense, frequently humorous, answers to questions about death. The questions may be posed by children but the answers are definitely mature!
Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?
In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Readers will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane. Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it. from Goodreads.
It felt…inappropriate (?) to be reading this book during a pandemic. But Caitlin Doughty, like many funeral directors and morticians, deals with death everyday and so speaks in a comfortable manner-of-fact way. I appreciated that her answers and anecdotes weren’t personalized stories. Instead this book contains plain facts about what happens to a human body after death and why.
This book is a much lighter take on than the excellent, STIFF: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. The lighter feel is appropriate considering Doughty is answering questions posed by children. However, this book does not feel written for children. The worries and curiosities of children may spark the conversation but the science and reality of death is plainly address right down to the microscopic details.
For example: Why do we turn funny colors when we die? The answer begins with the simple explanation of the cardiovascular system but doesn’t stop as it wanders through liver mortis, the effects of the digestive system, and how this kaleidoscope of change can leave clues for forensic experts. The kernel of the issue originates in the pure and unfiltered mind of a child but I wouldn’t feel automatically comfortable handing this book to kid. Especially considering the chapter on why Grandma is wrapped in plastic at her wake.
This did not stop me from enjoying each essay. I’m especially attached to Dr. Lisa, the fake astronaut that dies in space and is used to explain the many ways we may deal with death aboard a spacecraft or a space station. Hands down the answer that will stay with me addresses the question of whether we can give Grandma a Viking Funeral. The funeral pyre features in so many feature films that I just assumed it had a basis in some form of reality. Sadly (and fascinatingly), it doesn’t! Of course, now that I stop and think about all I know regarding the heat required to cremate a body this all make sense but grade school Molly is experiencing some serious shock. So, Darth Vadar’s body on the pyre…would that have even worked?!
There were times that this book absolutely tickled my darkly colored funny bone. There were occasions when the humor felt slightly repetitive but it was consistent and regular. There was no mocking of death, just the strange situations that the human body can find itself in when it arrives there.
It would be negligent of me to not mention the illustrations. The black and white work, done by Dianne Ruz, added perfectly to the tone of the book. Her instagram is found here and would probably be the best place to start when judging whether this book is for you or not.
Tell me, please!
What’s a NonFiction subject you find fascinating?