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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.
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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.
In addition to her own story, Doughty skillfully weaves in a history of embalming, American funeral traditions, other cultures' funeral rites and beliefs about death, and how the mortuary industry works, and it's all quite interesting, if sometimes a little difficult to read. If you're squeamish, it might be best to steer clear, as Doughty spares no description in her quest to open the reader's eyes to what really happens to our bodies after we die and how we can best understand and deal with death more honestly and directly than we currently do.
I don't know if I should say I "enjoyed" this book the way I would enjoy a novel, but I certainly appreciated it, especially since I have gone through the deaths of family members and am getting on in years myself, and I feel it's important to explore and be able to talk about our own ends openly, rather than tiptoeing around the subject.
I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the mortuary/funeral industry, medical students (doctors in this country don't deal with death very well), and anyone who, like me, wants to understand more about death and how to plan for it.