I would never have suspected a book about the funeral industry would be such an easy read.
I’ve had a fascination with death since I was around 9 years old.
Back then I more or less kept it under wraps since at least where I grew up it was seen as gross or disturbing to talk about death. That changed in High School when I met my best friend and we would sit and chat for the entire break about death, murders and sometimes conspiracy theories.
A few years ago, while looking up videos about La Pascualita on YouTube (google it, really interesting story) I stumbled on a Channel called Ask A Mortician. It’s a channel all about death, clearing up death myths and interesting historical stories. Needless to say, I stuck around.
What makes Ask A Mortician such a good channel is the woman running it, Caitlin Doughty doesn’t dramatize or exaggerate anything. If anything her videos are like a conversation with someone knowledgable on the subject but casual making her videos despite the subject enjoyable.
She is also a member of the Death Postive movement. Their goal is to end the taboo around talking about death. A movement I joined after finding her channel.
I knew she has a few books out, one published earlier this year in fact but I never read them.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory is her first book and a great one at that.
As the title implies, the book is a memoir of her time working at Westfield Cremation & Burial. Like her channel, she doesn’t try to shock readers with gorey details but rather tell them her honest experience as she takes us behind the scenes of the American funeral industry.
A corpse doesn’t need you to remember it. In fact, it doesn’t need anything anymore-it’s more than happy to lie there and rot away. It is you who needs the corpse. Looking at the body you understand the person is gone, no longer an active player in the game of life. Looking at the body you see yourself, and you know that you, too, will die. The visual is a call to self-awareness. It is the beginning of wisdom.
While not dramatizing the subject she does not sugarcoat it either so if you do have an aversion to death and the icky parts, you might want to avoid this book.
She also talks about death history not only in America but worldwide as well as touching on the role death has in our society both past and present nationwide.
Her second book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death does more in-depth on the subject but I haven’t read that yet. I do plan to in the near future.
I found Smoke Gets in Your Eyes to be a rather comfortable read. The straightforward writing style combined with her natural charm made it a great read. It is an eye-opening experience.
Again, if you are extremely squemish I would not recommend opening this book. Outside of those folk I want to encourage everyone adds this to their reading list.