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

51uF4K9CRmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When I asked the information desk at the bookstore where I could find this book, the lady behind the counter replied: “Oh, what a dismal title.”


If you are like most people, you fear death. You may not think about it every day, but admit, there are times when you feel its empty, absolute presence, and it brings a whole host of primal and existential feelings up from where you hid them, somewhere in the vicinity of the small intestines. It’s natural. We all do it.

In “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” Caitlin Doughty argues that America has created a culture of death that makes us fear it more than we should. We take such great pains to hide and prevent it, that when the time comes we are terrified and don’t know what to do. In her memoir, Doughty discusses the modern rituals of death through her experience as a crematory employee. Her voice is hilarious and cynically optimistic (if you can fathom that). At the end I felt, if not a little less scared, a little more accepting of our human inevitability.

About Annie McGovern

MA in Science and Medical Writing; Creative Writing BA; consumes books and science for sustenance (and tea); questionable Korean language skills; end
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