Tag: Ask a Mortician

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Posted December 19, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 2 Comments

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin DoughtyTitle: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory (Goodreads)
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Narrator: Caitlin Doughty
Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Caitlin Doughty started her career working in a crematory. She quickly discovered a common issue that seems to be a major issue in Western society. People are generally unprepared for death, not knowing loved ones wishes and not willing to have conversations regarding the topic. Doughty often refers to this as an anxiety towards death or even a death phobia. In an effort to educate people in death, she started a web series called “Ask a Mortician” allowing people to ask her anything regarding about death and the death industry.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory is an extension of Caitlin Doughty mission. Written as part memoir, part micro-history, this book explores the history and current state of the funeral industry. From the age of eight, Doughty had been exposed to death after witnessing a horrible accident that ended in the death of a small child. From that point she realised people were not willing to talk about death, as if they were scared of this inevitability.

Working at the crematory, she also discovered the lack of ritual towards death in Western society. To her she felt like people would rather criticise the funeral industry for their prices. Like paying to view the body of the recently deceased, a process that involves many processes to make the person look like they are resting peacefully. Price has been a big issue with people; it even is at the point where you can order a cremation over the internet and have the body picked up from the morgue and the ashes delivered without even having to deal with anyone.

The idea of the book is to educate people around the death industry, covering topics like the cremation process, the history of embalming, and even going as far as criticising some of the actions that are being used. Caitlin Doughty believes people should have an understanding of what is going on and have a conversation with their loved ones on the topic. With understanding and acceptance of death, we will be better prepared and should promote a healthier grieving or mourning process.

I had planned to read this book for non-fiction November, but then my mother-in-law died. I was not sure if I would be able to handle reading this but had committed to a buddy read of this book with Steph from Time to read! I was surprised how much comfort this book brought me, I felt better knowing about the processes and what happens in a funeral home. I think Smoke Gets in Your Eyes came at the perfect time for me and I was fascinated by the history and everything else within the book.

It is important to have a better understanding about what happens after death, and I am not just talking about the concept of an afterlife. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is the type of book that I think everyone needs to read and then tell your loved ones what you want when you die. I am curious to know more on the topic, I might pick up Stiff by Mary Roach or even Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek to learn more. One of the things I love about non-fiction is the chance to learn so much about a wide variety of topics.