Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Title: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and Other Lessons From the Crematorium
Authors: Caitlin Doughty
Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-fiction, Memoir

From her first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into her curious new profession. Coming face-to-face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated and the mourning families they left behind, and found herself confounded by people's erratic reactions to death. Exploring our death rituals - and those of other cultures - she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this illuminating account makes this otherwise terrifying subject inviting and fascinating.
Full disclosure: death irrationally terrifies me. I'm not sure why. I think it's a combination of the process of dying such as pain, or lack of dignity and the natural fact of decomposition. It just gives me the heebie jeebies and so as a consequence, like most of western society, I like to never think of death and I have certainly never been around or seen a dead/dying person. I'm so sheltered. I know. So why did I pick up this book? Morbid curiosity of course...

I am so glad I read this book though, honestly, it made me think about death in a new way. Unlike Stiff by Mary Roach (which made my fear of death worse), Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is gentler. It is the author's memoir of working in the death industry and becoming a mortician. Doughty demystifies what happens to the bodies and what the processes actually are. Her voice is really upbeat, humorous and that really helped as death is obviously quite an uncomfortable subject usually.

I really loved Doughty's death positive message and it actually calmed me down in terms of my irrational hysteria towards death and dead bodies. I feel like I am more informed about what the options are, and the whole subject is just less squeamish for me generally. Which is amazing.

I highly recommend this book, it is illuminating, lighthearted (for the most part) and of course, very informative.

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