The library recommended Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory after I finished Brain on Fire, but it really reminded me more of Judy Melinek’s wonderful Working Stiff. Three fascinating books written by three talented women. Caitlin Doughty’s gets a little preachy towards the end, as she dives into her own personal philosophies on death and dying, but the information leading up to her own discoveries is interesting and delivered wonderfully.
“Accepting death doesn’t mean you won’t be devastated when someone you love dies. It means you will be able to focus on your grief, unburdened by bigger existential questions like, “Why do people die?” and “Why is this happening to me?” Death isn’t happening to you. Death is happening to us all.”
Caitlin Doughty has had an obsession with death since the age of eight, when she witnessed something that not only fucked her up, but fucked me up pretty good, too. Seriously — it was worse than the 200 pages of cremation descriptions. Anyway, she studied medieval history — focusing on death rites, of course — in school, and graduated determined to do something involving death as a job. She got hired on at a crematorium in San Francisco, where she learned all about the death industry — and she shares it with us.
She has a great writing style — quick and breezy, but full of interesting facts and dark humor. Like I said, she gets a bit philosophical towards the end, when she discusses her plans to open her own mortuary service (which she eventually does). But I found her ideas interesting, if a little unusual, and the book itself was a delight for anyone interested in behind-the-scenes glances.