I acquired this book. I have no idea how, or where it came from, but it’s been living on my bookshelf for three years. Maybe it was hubby’s? Maybe someone left it at our house? It got on the shelf somehow, but I don’t remember putting it there. The only clue to its origins is a receipt I found tucked in the back. It was purchased at the Newark Airport in 2015 along with a book about biology. I did not travel anywhere in 2015, and I would have never purchased a book about biology. Its origins to my hands are a mystery, but I’ve walked by the shelf on my way out the door for three years and always mean to read it. I never do. But this year is the year of reading down all the books I own and deciding whether or not to keep them, so Smoke Gets In Your Eyes finally got dusted off and opened.
I was moved by this book. Doughty is an exceptional writer in that she is able to condense the enormous philosophical and social concept of death into something bite-sized and practical. There is a warmth and honesty to her writing that really does pull back the “black curtain,” as she calls it. Mixing her own personal experiences working in a crematory and her unbelievable literary knowledge on the philosophies and anthropology of different death cultures, Doughty weaves a narrative that quietly challenges the western view of death and dying. Her first-hand experiences coupled with the knowledge of other cultures and past-practices brings to light how we may be making death much harder on ourselves by pretending we have nothing to do with it. And her challenge to us is to start questioning and stop fearing.
I want to be gifted to science upon my death, which always causes a huge marital battle, as hubby wants me put in a box in the ground next to him; a beautiful headstone declaring our names above. I’ve never understood his obsession with being placed in a shiny casket that takes up space and is useless. But reading this book opens the conversation for why so many people think like hubby, and why the idea of bodies being utilized has become so foreign to our western beliefs. Doughty suggests that the rituals involving the actual body have historically proven to help people deal better with grief and the passing of loved ones, and she suggests that we start turning back that way.
As an ardent lover of Mary Roach’s Stiff, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was the perfect next step in understanding our inevitable end, and how best to deal with it. I highly, highly recommend reading this book. It’s eye-opening in the kindest and most caring way.
Bingo Square: Reading the TBR