When I first read the title of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – And Other Stories From The Crematory, I was slightly offended. By the fifth time I read the title and actually perused the description, I was intrigued. The memoir described Caitlin Doughty’s experience working in a Crematory as “honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic,” and I couldn’t agree more. I found Caitlin to be an honest narrator who had well founded opinions about death, and by the end of her memoir, she emerged as a proponent for positive changes to funeral procedures. These traits, coupled with her wry writing, made this one of the more memorable books I’ve read in a while.
Although I expected gruesome stories about the departed, what I found instead was an intelligent and well crafted book that celebrated life and critically examined society’s reaction to death. I will admit that I felt somewhat guilty for enjoying this book given that the main characters were, well, deceased. Yet Caitlin’s respect for those she cremated, as well as funeral procedures in general, quickly tempered my reservations. Caitlin included a fair amount of information about the history of death and burial traditions, all of which enhanced her own story while making this, I dare say, an educational read. Learning about the way other cultures celebrate death made me examine some of my own thoughts on the subject. For example, while I couldn’t fathom my body being eaten by wild animals after I pass, some societies believe allowing animals to feast on the dead continues the circle of life in an honorable and selfish way. The proposition is definitely food for thought. (Pun intended.)
The odd premise was just as enjoyable as Stiff, and if you are looking for something off beat, this is for you!