Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Caitlin Doughty
“Morbid and illuminating” (Entertainment Weekly)―a young mortician goes behind the scenes of her curious profession. Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty―a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre―took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

Reviews

Reviewed: 2021-06-21
Thought-provoking, fascinating, and funny. I cannot say enough good things about this book, and every single person I know should read it.
Reviewed: 2020-09-12
DNF 2/t a writing voice that was off-puttingly ethnocentric and self-indulgent. Check your privilege at the door.
Reviewed: 2020-02-14
This book has taken me to websites and other places unreachable in any other text. Doughty is brilliant, funny, strong, and yet still quite human.

The ideas of getting familiar with death that are explored here are far overdue. Doughty makes a very compelling argument, laced with more than a little personal experience, that we are all headed toward death, so we might want to read the brochure!

Excellent book by an amazing Author.
Reviewed: 2016-06-20

Seriously, if I could give this book more stars, I would. I love Caitlin's writing style. This book was incredibly easy to read, and between the morbid humor and the mix of history with deathly experiences, I couldn't get enough. I actually had to message her to ask her to keep writing (but only if she wants to). I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It's one of the best books I have ever read. Read it!

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