Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

Author: Caitlin Doughty

Narrator: Caitlin Doughty

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Length: 7h 44m

5 stars - I loved it!
5 stars – I loved it!

“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.”

In this eye-opening, candid, and hilarious look at the funeral industry, Caitlin Doughty takes us through her experiences dealing with the dead. From a crematory worker, to mortuary school, and to her Youtube channel, she gives us an indepth look at her life’s story and the inner workings of the funeral industry. 

“Sifting through an urn of cremated remains you cannot tell if a person had successes, failures, grandchildren, felonies. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

As a fan of Caitlin Doughty’s Youtube channel I instantly knew I needed to read her books. This book is a memoir of her times in the funeral industry and how it led her to push for personal funeral practices and create the Order of the Good Death. As someone who considered cremation, I found this book fascinating. Caitlin does an amazing job at explaining the intricacies of the crematory and how there isn’t anything to fear from it if you choose that route.

“The silence of death, of the cemetery, was no punishment, but a reward for a life well lived.”

One of the things about this memoir that really stood out to me, besides all the details about the funeral service, was her frankness at being the lone female in a male dominated profession. She is blunt about her constant need to appear like she could handle everything thrown at her, even when it is clear that help was needed. This is something that I feel every woman has probably experienced in her job, especially if it’s a male dominated job. Also she discusses her personal life at being attracted to a friend and how it impacted her life. I liked the inclusion of these personal stories along with her work stories, it made her more relatable. 

“A corpse doesn’t need you to remember it. In fact, it doesn’t need anything anymore-it’s more than happy to lie there and rot away. It is you who needs the corpse. Looking at the body you understand the person is gone, no longer an active player in the game of life. Looking at the body you see yourself, and you know that you, too, will die. The visual is a call to self-awareness. It is the beginning of wisdom.”

Overall, this is a very informative book about the funeral industry and gives a different perspective on what your death could be. I highly recommend this book if you have fears of death, want to learn more about funeral options, or you are just interested in learning more about what happens behind mortuary doors.  

Trigger Warnings:

  • In depth discussion of the cremation of babies
  • Discussion of suicide and suicidal plans

Goodreads / Amazon


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