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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Caitlin Doughty (Author)

 

A young mortician goes behind the scenes, unafraid of the gruesome (and fascinating) details of her curious profession.

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).

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • September 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24023-8
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 272 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Caitlin Doughty takes you to places you didn’t know you wanted to go. Fascinating, funny, and so very necessary, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals exactly what's wrong with modern death denial.” — Bess Lovejoy, author of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses

“Alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, fascinating and freaky, vivid and morbid, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is witty, sharply drawn, and deeply moving. Like a poisonous cocktail, Caitlin Doughty's memoir intoxicates and enchants even as it encourages you to embrace oblivion; she breathes life into death.” — Dodai Stewart, deputy editor of Jezebel.com

“[Doughty’s] sincere, hilarious, and perhaps life-altering memoir is a must-read for anyone who plans on dying.” — Katharine Fronk, Booklist, Starred review

“Caitlin Doughty is best known for her YouTube series Ask a Mortician, and she brings the same charisma and drollery to her essay collection Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Think Sloane Crosley meets Six Feet Under… After confronting mortality day in and day out, Doughty becomes more philosophical about her job. Evoking Kafka, she writes that 'the meaning of life is that it ends.' Everything must come to an end; it’s just a shame this book eventually does too.” — Kevin Nguyen, Grantland

“Entertaining and thought-provoking.” — Julia Jenkins, Shelf Awareness

“Demonically funny dispatches.” — O Magazine

“Morbid and illuminating.” — Entertainment Weekly

“A book as graphic and morbid as this one could easily suck its readers into a bout of sorrow, but Doughty—a trustworthy tour guide through the repulsive and wondrous world of death—keeps us laughing.” — Rachel Lubitz, Washington Post

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