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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory Hardcover – September 15, 2014
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“[Doughty’s] sincere, hilarious, and perhaps life-altering memoir is a must-read for anyone who plans on dying.”
- Katharine Fronk, Booklist, Starred review
“Caitlin Doughty is best known for her YouTube series Ask a Mortician, and she brings the same charisma and drollery to her essay collection Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Think Sloane Crosley meets Six Feet Under.”
- Kevin Nguyen, Grantland
“Entertaining and thought-provoking.”
- Julia Jenkins, Shelf Awareness
“Demonically funny dispatches.”
- O Magazine
“Morbid and illuminating.”
- Entertainment Weekly
“A book as graphic and morbid as this one could easily suck its readers into a bout of sorrow, but Doughty―a trustworthy tour guide through the repulsive and wondrous world of death―keeps us laughing.”
- Rachel Lubitz, Washington Post
“Doughty reels you in with wonderful anecdotes about her work. Intermixed with the humor is a love of life that will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead.”
- San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Mortician Caitlin Doughty―host and creator of Ask a Mortician and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes―founded The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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The author continually pre-judges people (alive and dead) throughout this book, but, when anyone reaches through her built-up macabre exterior, she becomes overly-enamored with them. For example, the author talks about tossing infants into the crematory's "sweet spot" because they were too small for the adult-sized equipment (am I the only one that wondered, "Why not push them in with your famous rake?"), but, when she has to shave the hair of one child while she cradles them in her arms, she attaches to this infant. In another part of the book the author makes fun of a skull that has its face peeled down, but, once the face is pulled back and looks like a "faux Luke" (a friend in LA), she again changes course and now has compassion for this corpse. After going into the Redwood forest to try and commit suicide, the author meets two people in the parking lot and befriends the one who lets her discuss cremation but the other woman, who does not discuss death with her, is described as speaking with a "croak". Such instances make you feel sorry for the author's constant need for acceptance and approval, and, therefore, the much-needed discussion of the "good death" takes a backseat to her own soul-searching.
I agree that there is a need for us, as a society, to dismantle the taboo we have about death but such discourse is brief, at most, in this book. For instance, the author mentions meeting a person at a taco stand who has created a flesh-eating mushroom suit for corpses but then, after only a few sentences about death alternatives, the door is once again shut and the book returns to an introspective drone. The iconoclastic-centered vision of this book simply does not serve as a vehicle to do what is most important: create a much-needed paradigm shift to the way we view and respond to death. Maybe with their next book the author will be able to do so.
The author of this book has been fascinated with the subject of death and dying since she was a young girl and witnessed the death of another young girl who took a fall at a local mall. For years afterwards she was filled with angst and trepidation and described herself as "functionally morbid."
When she went to college she got a degree in medieval history with a focus on death and rituals and afterwards got a job working at a mortuary - the Westwind Cremation & Burial.
This book describes her experiences facing death straight on and how it actually eased her own existential angst and made her better able to appreciate and enjoy her own life. We not only read (detailed) descriptions of what happens to bodies in a crematorium, we also learn about other mortuary practices and what really happens behind the scenes.
The author makes such an important case against our own culture's tendency to avoid death (and aging!) and to try to avoid its very existence. She points out how in the past and how even today - in other cultures - family and neighbors took care of their dead and witnessed dying all the time. She points out how important that is to accepting our own death and by doing so, make it less frightening and esoteric.
Lest I give the impression that this is a depressing book, for me it was not. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments and when I finished the last page I found myself with a little less of my own existential angst.
This book reminded me a lot of science writer Mary Roach and I feel like I'd love to hang out and be friends with both of them. Ms. Doughty has such a pleasant writing style and when you're finished reading, you will not only have been entertained but educated as well. She takes on this sobering and angst-filled subject with an abundance of wit and sensitivity. I hope this book gets the attention and audience it deserves.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is something I never knew I needed until I had it in my hands and started reading.Read more
For decades I wanted to be cremated because it is so much cheaper and seemed more honest than the wash-n-wax theatrics of...Read more