So I reviewed Caitlin’s newest book, From Here to Eternity earlier this month. And y’all, I LOVED it. So, of course I had to run right out and get my paws on her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. This one was pretty good too, but much more memoir than From Here to Eternity, which had a lot of cool historical facts along with stories of how other cultures treat death. You can read that review here.
I really don’t know what draws me to these types of books. It’s just the whole Six Feet Under appeal. Okay, that was part Peter Krause. But just the allure of the unknown. It’s interesting.
From the Publisher:
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)
Caitlin is a badass. Seriously, just so cool. She’s pretty and hip and really wanted to be a mortician. And I don’t question it because in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, she really makes me feel that it’s a completely normal path in life. By the end of the book, I wasn’t even flinching at her reference to “picking up a batch of babies” to cremate. Okay, now that I have a little distance it’s sad and morbid again.
As I mentioned before, it’s much more memoir than her most recent book, From Here to Eternity. I definitely enjoyed the book, but it left me wanting a little something more. Basically I guess if her latest book wasn’t so amazing, I would have liked this book more. Is that fair? I think that’s probably a pretty good problem for an author to have. But a lot of people of Goodreads rated this one just about as high as the last. So….maybe read this one first and then her latest and you’ll love both a ton!
But here’s the bottom line–Caitlin writes with an amazingly honest and refreshing voice. She isn’t apologetic about anything and just calls it as she sees it. In the world of death and funerals, there is just so much awkwardness. No one knows what to say to comfort someone else, or what level of grief is appropriate. In America, we do it very badly. She gets it. And she wants to change that. And that is just such a breath of fresh air.
Buy the book: