Author(s): Caitlin Doughty
A fascinating look at the funeral industry and an exploration of how we deal with death and our dead from a young feisty, funny and fearless mortician. From her very first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into the gruesome daily tasks of her curious new profession. From caring for bodies of all shapes and sizes, picking up corpses from the hospital morgue, sweeping ashes from the cremation machines (sometimes onto her clothes) and learning to deal with mourning families, Caitlin comes face-to-face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about - death. But as she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated, and found herself confounded by people's erratic reactions to death, Caitlin's feelings began to evolve in unexpected ways. Now a licensed mortician, Caitlin tells the story of her fumbling apprenticeship with the dead. 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 urgent and fascinating.
A zingy, fresh and possibly even important book about death ... This book might change your life * Evening Standard * Upbeat, brave and brilliantly, morbidly curious ... Important and timely * Sunday Times * A well-researched, beautifully observed book and Doughty is a convincing and impassioned advocate for changes in our cultural attitudes towards death ... There's much to enjoy in this thoughtful, unflinching and highly entertaining memoir * Observer * Absolutely and utterly life affirming ... Nothing is off limits ... And yet all of it is written with the utmost respect ... There are many moments that moved me ... Doughty's language is full of the notion of care * Scotsman * Funny but not flippant, sometimes painful, but rightly so, and always compelling * Literary Review * Frank ... philosophical ... engaging and even wicked * New York Times * Acerbic, hilarious, and thoughtful ... Doughty's feisty but lovable personality shines through, and that would be enough for a decent memoir, but she does so much more here. The author uses her own life as a jumping off point in this beautifully crafted piece of writing, dovetailing her own observations with the work of psychologists, literary figures, industry professionals, philosophers, and religious leaders to argue coherently and convincingly that the impersonal, big business model of the funeral industry is robbing us of a vital component of the human experience. She argues that only by facing our mortality and becoming intimate with the idea of death can we live our lives to the fullest, and it's hard to argue with her * Independent * Eye-opening, cringe-inducing, often hilarious, occasionally haunting, always insightful -- DAVID EAGLEMAN Caitlin Doughty blows a huge matter-of-fact hole in the grim curtain of silence surrounding the death industry - and what a blessed relief that is. This book absolutely must be read, if only to remind all of us that exercise, organic food and plastic surgery only work up to a point. Doughty is my kind of death crusader - compassionate, unblinking and very, very funny -- MEG ROSOFF Caitlin Doughty is not what I imagine a funeral director to be ... she is funny, young and enthusiastic, the same characteristics that infuse her memoir * Sunday Times * Strange and funny. It may well blow your mind wide open * Flavorwire * [Doughty's] sincere, hilarious, and perhaps life-altering memoir is a must-read for anyone who plans on dying * Booklist * Arresting ... refreshing ... riveting * Grazia * Timely, funny, honest and interesting, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is an enormously helpful contribution to the current taboo-breaking debate about death -- Virginia Ironside With the dark wit you might expect from an undertaker and the compassion and insight you might not, strong storytelling and vivid descriptions, she displays a protective mechanism that the psychologists seem to have forgotten - humour * New Scientist * Brave and fascinating ... unusually funny * Daily Mail * A death-changing book ... It is impossible not to be inspired by Doughty's commitment to her cause * The Times * Often funny ... yet never irreverent * Irish Sunday Independent * 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 most of the way * Washington Post * There's a welcome honesty to Doughty's account of her time as a mortician, which starts when she has to shave the face of her first corpse. In some ways, it's reassuring that we return to dust, and Doughty's healthy humour and practicality are reassuring too * Glasgow Sunday Herald * There's something about her understanding of how fragile life can be that got to me ... And although none of us wants to be confronted by that all the time, Doughty has a matter-of-factness that makes that not as scary as it usually seems * Scotland on Sunday * Doughty writes about her life with corpses with all the sassiness that other young women bring to penning romcoms * Mail on Sunday * Doughty is determined to lead the way in confronting mortality. Indeed, she does not so much meet Death's gaze as attempt to stare him into submission...Doughty's corpse-collecting adventures are often hilarious as well as informing. If you had not planned to pack a book about crematoria for your holiday read, this one offers plenty of reasons to reconsider * Financial Times * A highly unusual memoir ... a manifesto for how to live - and die - better. Caitlin, with her no-nonsense style and absolute single-mindedness plus a healthy dose of goth sensibility, bravely shows that death is nothing to be afraid of * Twin Magazine * Truly riveting ... this funerally forthright book rings with life and dead-pan humour ... Having read her brilliant contribution to the death debate, I'm with her all the way to the cremation chamber (and I'd let her push the button) * Bookseller, Book of the Month *
Caitlin Doughty was born and raised in Hawaii before gaining a degree in Medieval History from the University of Chicago. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she owns an alternative funeral home, Undertaking LA. She is the creator of the 'Ask a Mortician' web series, the founder of the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Dead and co-founder of Death Salon.