Death’s services aren’t for free?

I just watched a commercial that advertises the current fees and expenses surrounding funerals.  Supposedly, it costs over $10,000 to pay for an average funeral service, the funeral “reception,” etc.  Even cremation is pricey (when one’s body is dissipated into charred ashes)…it’s around $5,000.  WHAT?!

Okay, okay….so, let’s hypothesize.  An average person, whether man or woman, has to start working steadily in order to survive in this world and society we live in, almost from the instant he/she graduates (or drops out) from secondary school.  Then, considering high living costs, any person alive is forced into the endless routine of working until retirement, which isn’t until “ripe old age.”  That would be around one’s mid-sixties.  Then, the possibility of death is very prominent…well, the probability of death is very high.

Didn’t Benjamin Franklin say that death and taxes were the only certain thing in life?  Aside from the fact that taxes are government-created, he was right.  Death is the the event that equalizes all of us animate creatures, although the world has established by now that we all are equal, male or female, all races, nationalities, etc.  Moreover, those who live after the dying are more concerned with the financial remains of the dead rather than putting their physical remains to rest.

One example is the fact that most people laugh and are merry during funeral receptions.  Since when do you have a “reception” after a funeral?  Someone just died.  Isn’t that too morbid to be celebrating by means of a party?  But I’m digressing.  Anyway, literature has proven that death can be a curse or a blessing, depending on how you look at it.  Death is supposed to be free for all animate beings, not levied with prices.  Give me a break.  Coffins, burial ground…these are ridiculous human inventions.  So is money, but that is beside the point.  No one deserves to be paying for himself/herself even after death.

Death is meant to be a release, an escape from this twisted “reality.”  Or like the philosopher Plato said, it’s the chance for us to enter the sunshine, exit the cave, and leave the shadows behind.  It all depends if you believe in an afterlife.  Nevertheless, these ideas about funerals and imposing restrictions on how bodies may be laid to rest…it’s nonsensical.  Humans do not respect Death anymore.  They treat death like a business.  Death has become a veritable business where the living profit.  The “Grim Reaper” never charged for his (or her) services, except counting Greek mythology and that coin placed in the deceased’s mouth to pay Charon.  But one coin does not equal $10,000 or more.

Don’t we want to die in peace without leaving money behind for a wooden box and an empty pit where our bodies will deteriorate?  Isn’t this history repeating itself in endless ways?  More proof that the future and present reflect the past, and that nothing has changed since the ancients believed in the Underworld and the river of death, Styx.

Natalie Gorna

Review of “The Goddess Inheritance” by Aimée Carter

It’s going to happen in exactly one month from today — Aimée Carter’s final volume in her Goddess trilogy will hit bookshelves on February 26.  And believe it or not, as a book reviewer and a follower of this series, I’m at a loss for words when my mind travels over my reaction to book #3, so I’ll chronicle my thoughts in pieces.

“The Goddess Inheritance” is climatic, the apex of the triangle of Greek myth retellings that Carter’s been slowly building.  Cronus plays a bigger part than ever in the storyline, and the war with a vengeful, insane Calliope/Hera has to end one way or another.  Kate finally delivers her child.  The secret of who Kate’s birth father is comes out (Greek myth fans, you know the answer to this one already).  And Henry is unleashed, so to speak, his full power breaking free and transforming into a figurative storm of emotion.

I loved Kate’s character in “The Goddess Test.”  She was so devoted to her mother, so compassionate, so very good and moral.  However, “Goddess Interrupted” make her look needy and whiny, which wasn’t a good look for her.  In “The Goddess Inheritance,” her desperation and the way she’s affected by the new role of motherhood brings her down to earth and stronger than before, bereft of her “clingy-ness” in regards to Henry and left with the need to survive and triumph no matter what the cost.  Her morals are fully intact.  I wasn’t disappointed with Kate this time, and though Henry receives less spotlight time than in any of the previous novels, the storyline clicks.

As for Cronus, I still am confused about his fascination with Kate.  Was he attracted to her, in lust with her, or what?  His motives for choosing Kate as his future queen are so unclear and left so entangled that I was in a huff.  First, Carter made Cronus sound so interesting and perplexing, and then she leaves one of her best characters alone at the end of book with no explanation as to why he has a “crush” on his son’s wife to begin with.  Was this just a contrived thread to make the plot work?  Also, I noticed the author did not want to touch Cronus’s or his wife’s origin story.  Why?  It would have been so interesting.

Calliope is another side of the story — after “The Goddess Legacy,” I understood her better and even felt sorry for her, but “The Goddess Inheritance” demonstrates that the goddess of heaven is past the point of no return as far as redemption is concerned.  As they say, “what goes around comes around,” which certainly applies to Calliope’s fate.

Carter delves headfirst in the conundrum that I guessed in “The Goddess Test” — Kate’s birth father — and profanity ensues when Kate confronts the guilty party and even gets into a fight with her beloved mother.  These scenes were the essence of angst, but I felt that the author should have revealed this tidbit about Kate in “Goddess Interrupted” — did she honestly believe her readers wouldn’t have guessed the truth by now?

Romance: there’s not too much and not too little, though there aren’t any “great” love scenes worthy of mention.  I don’t blame the author for making them snappy, though, when it’s so hard to craft original romantic moments that stay true to the writer’s imagination.

The theme of death rings more loudly than anything else in “The Goddess Inheritance,” I’m afraid — two major characters die.  One who is loved and one who is hated.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  You have been warned.  There will be blood, and there will be a big, big fight scene.

The ending is too reminiscent of that in “Breaking Dawn” in the Twilight series.  Carter’s characters have the rest of eternity to live, so it was hard for me not to remember Meyer’s parting lines and compare them to how Henry and Kate’s love also won’t ever die — literally.  Plus, Kate’s child is eerily similar to Bella’s Renesmee.  Note: “Breaking Dawn” got a 2 out of 5 stars rating from me.  I tolerated it, but just barely.

However, all in all, Carter finishes her trilogy deftly and conclusively in “The Goddess Inheritance” with a respectful and appreciative nod to Greek mythology and all it still has to offer humanity — I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Natalie Gorna

Review of “The Goddess Legacy” by Aimée Carter

Ever since I opened my Ancient Greece history book in the 4th grade, I’ve been circling around the mystery and intrigue of Greek mythology.   Greek myths hold a lot of potential for retelling.  They present a new angle of life and observation.   And I already know someday I’m going to join the club of authors who have retold many Greek myths in new and exciting ways.

Aimée Carter is one of these authors.  I really enjoyed The Goddess Test but got in a huff over Goddess Interrupted.  The former introduced an amazing main character and a new twist on my favorite Greek myth.  The latter ruined my perception of the former and…I thoroughly did not enjoy it.  But The Goddess Legacy was…inspiring.

When I first read the synopsis, I already was thinking this novel by Carter was going to be different.  Happily, it was extremely different.  Five major Greek gods get to tell parts of their life stories in their own words: Hades, god of the dead; Hermes, messenger of the gods; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Persephone, queen of the Underworld; and Hera, goddess of heaven.  Calliope had no scruples and appeared to be dominantly evil.  At first I liked James, but Goddess Interrupted turned that opinion around.  Henry seemed so strong a character, but when it came to emotions, he also seemed to lack backbone.  A flirt from the start, Ava’s personality needed expanding.  And as for misunderstood Persephone…here is a love-hate story unlike any other.

The Goddess Legacy surprised me.  Enlightened me.  And gave me a new perspective of Greek mythology that was bright and dark at the same time.

The author made me feel for each of the characters.  Reading each novella separately, I was rooting for each of them—except perhaps James, whom I still didn’t like much anymore.  Some of the main characters were against each other, but understanding each of them helped me to see so much more behind every story as the novel progressed.  I sympathized with Hera’s need for loyalty and her longing to be loved, as well as her agonizing marriage with Zeus.  I enjoyed Aphrodite’s quest for true love and how she found it in an unexpected person.  Persephone only wanted the freedom of choice and to find happiness, but she only ended up hated by everyone…until she found the wonderful Adonis.  With James…he learned about the pain of loss indeed through a biting lesson.  Hades’s narrative wasn’t as disappointing as reviewed; I liked how Carter circled back to Kate and explained Henry’s low self-esteem and lack of faith in love.  And there were so many Greek myths entwined into the novellas!  The first-person narration was an insightful choice, even though Henry managed to evade that.

The style of the narrative was very thrilling, as by the end I felt that The Goddess Legacy had successfully pieced together its puzzles and matched all the characters’ experiences in one time frame.  The emotions portrayed were warm and deep, the storyline credible and very realistic.  Humanity was mirrored by the gods’ personalities and problems, all their vices and weaknesses relating back to Carter’s original thoughts on the deities in The Goddess Test.  The reader has a chance to see through the eyes of the protagonists and the antagonists…and then decide that judgment is impossible.  For a story about gods and goddesses, The Goddess Legacy has a very human edge to it, an edge that makes it captivating in the midst of a very detailed, very unusual lost world of beginnings, endings, and eternities.

I had fun with The Goddess Legacy.   It’s a touching retelling of Greek myths unlike any other.

Natalie Gorna