What do you get when you combine cremation, a young female funeral director, and a sarcastic wit? The wonderful memoir, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, And other Lessons From the Crematory”, written by Caitlyn Doughty. Now it isn’t often I would tell you to read a book with so much death and somewhat vulgar imagery (not true I will always recommend these books), but with Caitlyn’s unique writing style it is easy to get swept up in this hilarious recount of her years at a crematory in the Bay Area. This New York Times Bestseller faces the challenge of making death a friend and not a foe. The stories are so detailed and humor fills the pages. You instantly feel the fear of death slip away and understand why her role, and this book, is so important in our death denial society.
Although this is Caitlyn’s first book she already has a large following with her popular YouTube videos “Ask a Mortician.” Viewers write in their questions and with the same wit and detail found in her book. She will paint a picture for you about the realities of death. This books answers all your questions and more. Want to know when and why we started embalming bodies? Easy, The Civil War in 1862 “during the battle of Vicksburg the two sides called for a brief armistice because of the stench of corpses disintegrating in the hot sun.” Transporting bodies hundreds of miles in this odious condition was a nightmare for train conductors, even the most patriotic among them.” This kind of imaginary continues as she delves into the modern embalming industry and her co-worker Bruce, the trade embalmer. She makes her claim that it is not something required and quite a barbaric act to preform on a body. “If embalming were something a tradesman like Bruce wouldn’t do on his own mother, I wondered why we were performing it on anyone at all.”
The book isn’t all trade secrets and gruesome facts but Caitlyn does make a point to lift that curtain behind the scenes so you can come up with your own judgments about what you may want your funeral and end of life to look like. We follow her story from the crematory to a Mortuary college and her first funeral directing job. She paints the picture of her ideal funeral home, where families take the reigns and conversations about death are not to be feared. Unfortunately this funeral home does not exist…yet. Caitlyn is working hard to make this funeral home a reality in Los Angeles and I can’t wait to follow her on her next adventures.
Read this book if you are curious to know more but need a safe and humorous touch to get you through these morbid thoughts and curiosities. We will all be there, someday, knocking on deaths door. Why not start your conversation now by reading, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory.” You won’t regret it.
Purchase the Book HERE