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

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Staff Reviews

How can you say no to a book that starts with the line, “A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves”? I read this book cover-to-cover in one sitting. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” mixes Doughty’s experiences working in the death industry with analyses of death throughout history and cultures. Much like in her “Ask a Mortician” webseries, Doughty is an approachable, humorous, refreshingly honest ambassador of death. Doughty speaks thoughtfully of the grave disservice we do to ourselves by avoiding our mortality and not making informed decisions for our bodies post-mortem. There's a certain liberation in confronting our death anxiety and calm in knowing what's happened to our deceased loved ones. I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s going to die someday (though you might not want to pair this one with brunch).
-Riley, bookseller

— From Staff Picks

September 2014 Indie Next List

“Doughty writes with an intimate voice, using candid humor and raw emotion to take us by the hand and guide us into the underworld of the American funeral industry. This book doesn't lack for laughs, which are vital as we follow Doughty through some rather ghoulish American death rites. She tells a masterful story of our relationship - or lack thereof - with death, crafted with both cultural references and personal memories. Ultimately, Doughty wants us to be comfortable enough to invite death into our lives, and I urge you to take the first steps by inviting this book into yours.”
— Nee Rose, Grass Roots Books & Music, Corvallis, OR


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).

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393351903
ISBN-10: 0393351904
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 28th, 2015
Pages: 272
Language: English