Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is not only a candid memoir with a healthy dose of black humor, but an insightful conversation on the art of dying and an earnest call for a death positive revolution. Recommended By Hayley H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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).
This memoir looks at the introduction of the young author, amortician, to her first job at a crematorium. It is written in a self-consciously hip style; her encounters with dead bodies aredescribed as the same kind of tittilating forbidden activity as her living in San Francisco and encountering lesbian roommates and Latinodrag queens. Unlike the work of Mary Roach, the book is memoir in blog-length vignettes. In general, it avoids journalism orinformation on biology, provides some information on history, and focuses on the author's adventures in the Crematorium. Designed tosupport a social media following, the book's underlying goal is to get people to accept the reality of death. Its primary tool to this end is shock humor.Annotation ©2015 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
"In this valiant effort Doughty, a Hawaii-born LA mortician and creator of the web series 'Ask a Mortician,' uses her work as a crematorium operator at the family-owned Westwind Cremation and Burial in Oakland, Calif., to challenge the way we view death. Having studied medieval history in college, Doughty found an early job with the real deal: feeding the two huge 'retorts,' the cremation machines in the Westwind warehouse, with corpses some not so fresh retrieved by order from private homes or, more often, from hospitals, nursing homes, and the coroner's office. Doughty was eager to prove her mettle, and offered to do any number of odious tasks, such as shaving corpses, or otherwise helping Bruce the embalmer prepare them for the bereaved family's viewing: pumping them with the 'salmon pink cocktail' of formaldehyde and alcohol, wielding the trusty trocar, and sewing closed mouths and eyelids. Her descriptions about picking dead babies up from the hospital prove particularly difficult to read. Nonetheless, Doughty does stare death in the face, by tracking down numerous ancient rituals (she observes approvingly how some Eastern cultures still participate in the preparing of the body), pursuing fascinating new words such as 'desquamation' and 'bubblating' (both refer to excess fluids), and celebrating the natural function of decomposition. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.
About the Author
Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the "Ask a Mortician" web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. She lives in Los Angeles.