Book Review — Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter by E.B. Bartels

I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book from Netgalley and Mariner Books. This has not impacted my rating and this review is voluntary.

  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Published by: Mariner Books
  • Publish date: Aug 2, 2022
  • Number of pages: 272 pages
  • Author’s website: http://www.ebbartels.com/
  • Support local! Find this book on bookshop.org!

An unexpected, poignant, and personal account of loving and losing pets, exploring the singular bonds we have with our companion animals, and how to grieve them once they’ve passed.

E.B. Bartels has had a lot of pets—dogs, birds, fish, tortoises. As varied a bunch as they are, they’ve taught her one universal truth: to own a pet is to love a pet, and to own a pet is also—with rare exception—to lose that pet in time.

But while we have codified traditions to mark the passing of our fellow humans, most cultures don’t have the same for pets. Bartels takes us from Massachusetts to Japan, from ancient Egypt to the modern era, in search of the good pet death. We meet veterinarians, archaeologists, ministers, and more, offering an idiosyncratic, inspiring array of rituals—from the traditional (scattering ashes, commissioning a portrait), to the grand (funereal processions, mausoleums), to the unexpected (taxidermy, cloning). The central lesson: there is no best practice when it comes to mourning your pet, except to care for them in death as you did in life, and find the space to participate in their end as fully as you can.

Punctuated by wry, bighearted accounts of Bartels’s own pets and their deaths, Good Grief is a cathartic companion through loving and losing our animal family.

Rating: 5/5

A collection of essays–each one titled with a witty alliteration, elegantly meanders through E.B.’s personal experiences with pet grief and robustly researched examples of the way people grieve the loss of pets throughout history. I learned so much about the unique (and all valid) ways people deal with such a great loss– from various ceremonies enacted to honor a pet to some way of creating keepsakes as a remembrance. At the heart of this book, we see just how very real losing a pet is the same as losing any family member. As E.B. points out, losing a pet is often the first time we experience grief.

Your heart will ache and feel full from the stories told in this book! Anyone who has lost a pet will find comfort in these stories. I highly recommend this!

  • Well-researched! I’m sure this book barely scratches the surface of the myriad of ways people around the world grieve their pets, but you get a variety of insights from all over the globe.
  • The way E.B intersperses her own experiences with pet grief with her research and others’ experiences is well done. Rather than distracting from the non-fiction, the parts that are memoir supplement and add empathy.
  • Bonus stars for the pictures of E.B.’s pets!

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!

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