“Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death” by Caitlin Doughty, after two weeks in print, was eighth in hardcover nonfiction in the New York Times list of of bestsellers. Death sells. Doughty writes a book that will simultaneously make you gag and smile, but certainly won’t make you die laughing. In fact, that’s one question that isn’t answered in this book with strange facts about dead bodies and death — can you die laughing? Apparently no child asked that question. Maybe in the next book, Caitlin?
Doughty took 35 of the most delightful questions about death that she’s been asked, in many cases by children, and she answers them in a delightful manner. This book is filled with answers to such weighty questions as “Can I keep my parents’ skulls after they die?”….”What would happen if you die on a plane?”…. “We buried my dog in the backyard, what would happen if we dug him up?” and “Will I poop when I die?”
So do we poop when we die? According to Doughty, the answer is mostly yes. “You might poop when you die. Fun, right? I enjoy pooping in my day-to-day life, so it’s comforting to think that this activity will continue after my death. My apologies and thanks to the nurse or mortician who will deal with the cleanup.” She goes on to explain, with humor and straightforward talk, why that happens and what the exceptions are. It’s perhaps more information than the child who originally asked that question bargained for, but it certainly seems complete and real.
No, your hair and fingernails do not keep growing after you die. Can your hamster be buried with you? Doughty, thankfully, is not comfortable with the idea of killing a live pet to be buried with its person, but if the animal is already dead, all bets are off.
In the chapter, “I went to the show where dead bodies with no skin play soccer. Can we do that with my body?” Doughty explains that the show is called Body Works. She describes in detail how the bodies are preserved, and she explains how the bodies are obtained. Apparently, there is a waiting list to donate your body to the exhibition. She ends with a warning that sometimes body parts are stolen. She shares that in New Zealand, someone stole a few plastinated toes from a cadaver. “Each toe was valued at more than three thousand dollars — pretty pricey toes, though not quite an arm and a leg.” And her clever comments make humorous what could be gruesome.
Doughty’s writing is unusually conversational in tone for a book with subjects that are sometimes taboo. She manages to not only make the book extremely informative, but throughout writes her comments with sometimes profound thoughts, real humor and significant dose of brilliant wit. Her previous books, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” and “From Here to Eternity; Traveling the World to Find the Good Death” were both bestsellers — no wonder.
And while children asked these questions, the book is written for adults. But there’s nothing in these pages that would preclude those curious children from finding answers here. It might give some children nightmares, but children are often hardier than parents think. Only reread some Grimm fairytales to realize that those stories are grimmer than anything in the pages of “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?”
This review was originally published on Bookreporter.com.