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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: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,968,451 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

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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.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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It's a pretty fun read.
Michael Gmirkin
The author does a great job explaining how the ritual aspects of death and burial are handled by different cultures.
Melissa Niksic
Making An Exit is a fascinating book about a subject I never thought I would be interested in.
Robert G Yokoyama

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 I. Zawilski TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The blurbs for this book invoke the names of Mary Roach and Tony Bourdain. Although "Making an Exit" covers the same general subject as Mary Roach's "Stiff", it's different enough that you won't feel like you're reading the same book again. And while I'm not sure it's a good idea to compare yourself to such excellent and widely read authors (especially Mary), Sarah Murray might have the goods to back it up.

"Making an Exit" compares the rites and rituals of death and dying in different cultures around the world. Murray is a well-traveled person, who has lived in many locales, from Dorset (her birthplace) to Hong Kong. The chapters are arranged by theme, and to be sure, the first one, "The Lament", was not promising. There was a lot of jumping around, back and forth in time and space, more in the style of a novel. Added to that, one landing point of the jumps, a major theme of the chapter, was Iranian death customs. The very grim and humorless Iranian culture (especially where women are concerned) was a depressing start, even for a book on death, and even in a chapter devoted to lamenting the dead.

Turning the page on that, a study of cremation practices introduced the Balinese people, who are a world away from Iran in more ways than one. Also covered in a subsequent chapter are mummification and embalming; not only some of the nuts and bolts of preserving bodies, but why people across cultures want to preserve their dead at all. People have always interred physical objects, grave goods, along with the dead, and there are some interesting stories here. Later, the author talks about the importance placed on bringing the dead "home" and the reason why those who died in armed conflicts in the last century were not repatriated.
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