Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty

With Christmas right around the corner, I would decide it to be appropriate to post a review about a book all about death.

What can I say? I’m channeling my inner Nightmare Before Christmas over here.

But in all seriousness, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty has been making its rounds among my Goodreads friends, and after a particularly stellar review I knew I had to pick it up.

Should I have believed in the Goodreads reviews? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book 

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.

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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).

The Review

This book was truly one of the most eye opening pieces of literature that I have ever read.

For years I have said, well mostly joked, that when I die I would like to be buried.

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And not just buried I might add, I have also requested a mortsafe, a grave cage if you will, be placed on top of my grave so that my final rest can be peaceful.

But after reading this book, I must admit that I no longer look at funeral arrangements in quite so light hearted terms.

To be truthful, I may have even changed my mind on the being buried thing, and instead request to have my body thrown into the fires of a crematory.

Besides reconsidering my plan for after death, this book also made me look at death differently than I have in the past.

Everything Doughty brought up, from the way death is no longer seen in the home, to how modern burial practice is all about hiding death, to how the funeral industry has turned commercialized, resonated in a way that made me stop and think about things I have never before.

Plus, for a book about death, this one made me laugh out loud more times than I can count.

The message Doughty was trying to get across was read loud and clear, and should you be wondering about how to approach death without a stigma attached to it, I would definitely recommend you check this book out.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

W W Norton | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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