writer, reader, dreamer, doer

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - Caitlin Doughty


Smoke gets in your eyes (and other lessons from the crematorium) - Caitlin Doughty

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.

As someone who is empathetic, cowardly when it comes to the messier parts of humanity, and unable to look at blood without feeling a little woozy, I was surprised to find just how easy this book was to read, and how easy to relate to the narrator was.

Caitlin Doughty talks about her career candidly, humorously and respectfully. That was the first thing I noticed, actually: the respect paid to the people in her story. She may have amusing tales about her experience with them in her care, but she never once degrades, demoralizes or judges someone in the entirety of her narrative.

I knew someone, personally, who worked in a mortuary for several years, and it was amusing to hear about the same industry from someone who did not enjoy mortuary school. Caitlin talks about the lack of respect there for the bodies, the protocol that demands bodies be seem as objects rather than people, she talks about the power and beauty of cremation in relation to that.

Throughout the book, she also throws in fascinating facts about death rites and rituals throughout the world and human history. It really opens your eyes to what some consider "barbaric" practices. And here, too, nothing but respect for the people and cultures mentioned. Doughty is amazingly pragmatic when it comes to her explanations, and it works to really bring you into her experiences and those of others around her.

I highly recommend this book. It isn't as morbid as it sounds.

Or, perhaps, it is and I just have that kind of humor. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed it and think many others would as well.