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Making An Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre. How We Dignify the Dead Paperback – June 15, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Coptic (June 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 095587713X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955877131
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,131,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“An Eat, Pray, Love for the afterlife … Murray tackles an uncomfortable subject with sensitivity, humor and great insight … Making an Exit raises a host of issues worth thinking about … In addition to being a deeply informative book, Making an Exit is also a personal one. Murray’s reflections on her father’s terminal illness and his plans for a no-frills cremation are particularly touching … In the end, as her own experiences show, the rituals we create to honor the dead may say more about the living, and our fears and hopes.”—Rachel Newcomb, The Washington Post

“The death of her father, and his clear orders for an unfussy, secular send-off, prompted Ms. Murray to consider her own long goodbye. The result is not only a fascinating travelogue, but also a personal meditation on loss and fate. Ms. Murray excels in the role of intrepid tour guide. She has an inviting way of taking readers by the hand to explore new cultures and places … there is a wealth to discover within these pages.”—The Economist

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

SARAH MURRAY is author of Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat. A longtime Financial Times contributor, she lives in New York City.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Overall, 'Making an Exit' is a great read on a grim subject.
T. Adlam
This book gives a broad cross section of different cultures and how they approach this issue.
LexOrandi
If you realize what this book is before you go into it, I think you'll very much enjoy it.
Melissa Niksic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Silea TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While this book is ostensibly about the wide variety of ways different cultures address death and corpses, shaped by the author's experience of her father's death, it's really quite the other way around. Every aspect of this book is about her father's death, through the lens of various other cultures. It's a travelogue, sorted not chronologically but by death ritual category. Burying, burning, mummifying, it's all in there, but never more than a stone's throw from the core of the issue: a woman facing her own mortality after the death of her father.

While the author includes intricate details about the rituals themselves, she somehow steers clear of any emotional or philosophical depth. The meaning behind the rituals is explained with a sort of clinical detachment, the barest of broad strokes to explain the significance of the intricately detailed pyre or brightly colored coffin.

The organization of the book can be a bit frustrating at times as well. Cultures that share a type of death ritual share a chapter, but rather than being presented in sequence, the reader finds themselves tossed randomly between them with little rhyme or reason. The narrative lurches from the embalming chemicals and stainless-steel rectangular coffins of mainstream US burials to the colorful and creative coffins of Ghana, and back again. The description of immolation in the enormous and intricate pyres of Bali switches, with no notice whatsoever, to a documentation of the much more functional funeral pyres of India. From one paragraph to the next, it jolts back to the splendor of a Balinese funeral. While the intention is clearly to juxtapose the two extremes, it doesn't do so in a coherent way.

And through all that, the focus is solely on the author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on November 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this book, but encourage you to carefully consider the content and context before you make a decision. First, this is a book about death, albeit about how different cultures deal with death, particularly the ritual aspects of death (cremation, burial, etc.). You better be comfortable with this topic, or you'll hate it. I admit at times I did find it a bit depressing to read constantly about death (thereby exposing my own discomfort with mortality). Nonetheless, I really enjoyed, especially because it provides so much factual information in a generally entertaining way. For example, the author describes her experience attending a funeral in Bali, and then spends several pages explaining the role of fire in funerals across many cultures world-wide. My favorite kind of book is one that both entertains and educates me, and its great on that front. The author does a nice job of personalizing the story. Again, she typically recounts the cultural tradition in the larger context of her experience in that country. She also intersperses her own musings on the topic of death, but manages to strike a good balance and not overwhelming the reader with too much sentimental drivel; great restraint. Overall, a great read especially if you enjoy a blend of education and entertainment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Varraso VINE VOICE on October 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What can I say about a book on death, which is probably the touchiest subject after money in most social circles. Like the author, I am coming to terms with the death of my father, which made the book hard to read. I had thought that my dad was prepared, but her dad takes the cake. The author's father kept a file with all of the ideas pondered as to the disposal of his body. He had absolutely no religious beliefs, and had asked that his body be disposed of with that in mind. (His letter was actually in great detail, but I'm not going to spoil the story)

After her father's death, the author went on a journey to discover the death rituals in countries outside of her native Britain. I found it very interesting to discover the different attitudes that people have concerning the disposal of the body once the spark of life is gone. Knowing how people everywhere grieve helped me deal with my grief over the death of my Dad.

The book was well worth the week of evenings I used to read the book at a leisurely pace. It helped ease some of the pain, and made me realize that the pain of losing a loved one is universal. If I ever have the chance to meet the author, I'd like to shake her hand and thank her for her book, which is helping me grieve as I read it and will help me heal later on, and I suspect that writing the book helped her grieve and then heal from her father's death.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Spudman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For most of us the choice is between cremation and burial, between spending many thousands of dollars or hundreds. A third choice is on the horizon, one I hadn't heard of until seeing the newspaper article and the mention in Sarah Murray's "Making an Exit." The emerging technique, an alternative to cremation, is called alkaline hydrolysis. Lye, heat, and pressure dissolve the body tissues; the skeleton is ground into a fine, white ash. And the liquid? It goes down the drain or is used to fertilize a plant, perhaps a favorite one of the departed's.

In Making an Exit, Sarah Murray explores the customs and rites of death she's witnessed in her wide travels around the globe. The reader vicariously experiences the post mortem ceremonies in England and America as well as in far flung places like Bali, India, Ghana, Iran, Hong Kong, Mexico, and the Philippines. As the author describes the varied funeral customs, she interweaves the narrative of her own father's death, his preparations for death, and her own confrontation with her beloved father's death and her own mortality.

At first I found the frequent flashbacks and the back and forth narrative unnerving and even considered giving up on the book before reading fifty pages. However I soon accepted and understood the author's winding narrative and eventual arrival at an unavoidable destination. Writing about her father's death and about fulfilling his after death wishes was probably difficult for the author but ultimately cathartic. Deciding what she would want done with her own body after death is a difficult decision and one most of us would rather put off for another day, hoping that there is another day.

Murray suggests that funeral rites bring social order to the chaos caused by death.
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