"Morbid and illuminating" (Entertainment Weekly)—a young mortician goes behind the scenes of her curious profession.
Armed with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre, Caitlin Doughty took a job at a crematory and turned morbid curiosity into her life’s work. She cared for bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, and became an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. In this best-selling memoir, brimming with gallows humor and vivid characters, she marvels at the gruesome history of undertaking and relates her unique coming-of-age story with bold curiosity and mordant wit. By turns hilarious, dark, and uplifting, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals how the fear of dying warps our society and "will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead" (San Francisco Chronicle).
In this valiant effort Doughty, a Hawaii-born LA mortician and creator of the web series "Ask a Mortician," uses her work as a crematorium operator at the family-owned Westwind Cremation and Burial in Oakland, Calif., to challenge the way we view death. Having studied medieval history in college, Doughty found an early job with the real deal: feeding the two huge "retorts," the cremation machines in the Westwind warehouse, with corpses some not so fresh retrieved by order from private homes or, more often, from hospitals, nursing homes, and the coroner's office. Doughty was eager to prove her mettle, and offered to do any number of odious tasks, such as shaving corpses, or otherwise helping Bruce the embalmer prepare them for the bereaved family's viewing: pumping them with the "salmon pink cocktail" of formaldehyde and alcohol, wielding the trusty trocar, and sewing closed mouths and eyelids. Her descriptions about picking dead babies up from the hospital prove particularly difficult to read. Nonetheless, Doughty does stare death in the face, by tracking down numerous ancient rituals (she observes approvingly how some Eastern cultures still participate in the preparing of the body), pursuing fascinating new words such as "desquamation" and "bubblating" (both refer to excess fluids), and celebrating the natural function of decomposition.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Couldn’t put it down
So interesting couldn’t put it down
I absolutely love this book and it’s author. I started watching her YouTube videos then learned about her two books. So I bought both. I love and adore her and she’s got a death positive fan in WV. My mother is close to death as I write this review, she has helped me come to terms with so many different aspects of death. I’m no afraid and i plan to be the person to wash, cloth and prepare my mother. We also decided on a at home viewing followed by direct cremation. I’m proud of the fact I can do this for my mommy. Thank you Caitlyn for giving me the insight to be part of the good death order.
Smoke Gets in your Eyes and other stories in the crematory.,
I thought I was weird because I have always had a fascination with death, now I know I am and that’s ok. So grateful we have advocates like Caitlin Doughty for decency and respect in the death industry.