Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was super not what I thought it would be. I mean, it was definitely dark and macabre and wonderful, which is part of what I expected, but it just went much deeper than that.
I’ll start with what I expected. I love stuff that’s kind of creepy and morbid, and where better to find those things than in a book about working in a crematorium? Seriously, Caitlin Doughty would have had to pull some serious shenanigans to make me not enjoy this book. There was enough to satisfy the part of me that’s fascinated with death (and we all know that we have that part, just I don’t think most people indulge it), but it also really makes you think about what happens to a person after they die.
It’s really kind of awful. Caitlin made me think about death and the entire death industry without throwing it in your face and saying “LOOK AT THIS THING AND THINK ABOUT ITS CONSEQUENCES!” Her writing just encourages it in a very subtle way. I didn’t realize I was forming an opinion about the industry until it looked me in the face near the end of the book.
It wasn’t all doom and death, though. The way that all of the workers in the crematorium interacted with each other was amazing. They all had to build up a coping method, and they all seem to have chosen humor. Some awful things happen to Caitlin and they all find a way to laugh about it. Like the time when she had to cremate a…larger person and they’d just had the floor of the ovens redone so there wasn’t anywhere for the fat to go and, well, it didn’t stay in the oven. Some of it left with Caitlin, on her dress, and just. I was cringing as I read it and giggling at the same time. It was a really strange mixture of emotion.
All in All
I would definitely recommend this book. Actually, I’ve already forced it on one of my coworkers, so. It’s a really interesting look at a job you don’t see talked about too much. It also provides a way into a subject and an industry most people don’t think about until they have to, and sometimes not even then.