I received this book for free from the library in exchange for my honest opinions/ review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.
Published by W. W. Norton Company on September 15th 2014
Source: the library
Buy on Amazon
A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details 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), Doughty 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, Doughty 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, Doughty's engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Doughty argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).
So when I was recovering from surgery, I watched a LOT of youtube videos. I started off watching Plan With Me Videos (for the non planners among us, yes that’s a thing), which morphed into watching documentaries saved on my “watch later” list, which morphed into this girl talking about what happened to the dead bodies from the Titanic. And five hours later, I think I watched every single YouTube video Caitlin Doughty made (Ask a Mortician). At the end of several of her videos, she mentions her book. Being a book blogger, naturally I had to get a copy from my fantastic local library and then read it as quickly as possible.
Naturally – the timing sucked. My uncle Paul had recently passed away – heart attack in his truck in the Walmart parking lot (seriously) and there was a ton of mix-ups in dealing with his death. My dad had been told he was executor of the will, come to find out he had been my uncle’s Power of Attorney. His brother Bobby was against cremation, saying it was against their religion, when Paul had asked to be cremated. Paul wanted to be buried on top of his mother’s plot – the cemetery refused to do that, saying it was “illegal” (it’s not). Everyone thought there was life insurance – guess what, no life insurance. The problems just went on & on, because there was no real concrete burial plan in place.
If nothing else, this life lesson taught me the importance of it, and this book casts a – often blunt – light at the realities of death. There were a few parts that are not for the faint of heart, but it was fascinating to me to read about what actually happens after death. No one really thinks about the reality of the people behind a funeral home.
It’s definitely not a book for everyone, but also well worth the read if you can handle the subject matter
(TW: infant death)