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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

And Other Lessons from the Crematory
Narrated by: Caitlin Doughty
Length: 7 hrs and 44 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (4,076 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty - a 20-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre - took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. With an original voice that combines fearless curiosity and mordant wit, Caitlin tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters, gallows humor, and vivid characters (both living and very dead). Describing how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes), and cared for bodies of all shapes and sizes, Caitlin becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the deceased. Her eye-opening memoir shows how our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead). In the spirit of her popular Web series, "Ask a Mortician", Caitlin’s engaging narrative style makes this otherwise scary topic both approachable and profound.

Caitlin Doughty, the host and creator of the "Ask a Mortician" Web series and the collective Order of the Good Death, is on a mission to change the way we think about death.

©2014 Caitlin Doughty (P)2014 Recorded Books

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Ms. Frizzle Takes the School Bus to a Morgue

Would you listen to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes again? Why?

In the name of all things unholy and weird, yes! I listened to this book at work and found myself snorting with laughter at irreverent and socially unacceptable times. It is wonderfully informative, thought provoking and hilarious.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The dead. Doughty has a distinct and alarming ability to animate the dead in a way that demands that we respect them, but allows us to laugh with them at the absurdities of death and dying.

What does Caitlin Doughty bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Doughty's narration is a bit forced at first, but listening to her settle into the reading is kind of like watching a friend get over stage fright and slowly take command of the audience. As one would expect, Doughty brings a certain honesty to the more personal anecdotes in the book that I may not have appreciated as much without hearing them told by the author. The narrative does take on a slightly detached tone overall, which is what creates the dry humor, but it makes the personal moments of sadness a bit disarming. I'm sure that's the point, but I am glad that I got to hear them from Doughty herself. Her narration takes on a different cadence and a lower decibel when she recounts some episodes from her childhood that caused the images to stick in my memory of this book.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I enjoyed looking forward to listening to a chapter or two a day. The pacing is steady and unhurried. The format is such that each chapter can almost stand alone so it does not lend itself to binge listening. This is a story you can enjoy in small chunks.

61 of 62 people found this review helpful

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Loved it So Much I Bought it After Reading it Free

Any additional comments?

I listened to this audiobook for free from my library, and it resonated with me so much I came back and bought it here at Audible. I would describe this book as gorgeous. Caitlin's raw, emotional, funny, and heartfelt stories about her experiences with death will move you. You will begin thinking about death and the funeral industry in different ways, and that's a good thing.

Something wonderful that Caitlin does throughout her story is reinforce the idea that you're not "weird" if you're drawn to death, (This historic cemetery tour guide thanks you to remember that) and in fact, a realistic understanding of death as a part of life is healthy, and even necessary. Caitlin spent an early part of her life terrified by death, and it wasn't until she began accepting it that she could move on.

I love that she's revolutionizing the funeral industry. She's letting people know that there's nothing inherently dangerous about dead bodies. She's dispelling the notion that it's somehow illegal for families to care for their own dead. She's waving frantically behind the funeral director trying to sell bereaved and vulnerable people a 25k funeral. She's reassuring you that if you need a little more time - an hour, an evening, a day - to say goodbye, you can have that.

She's taking us out of the white vans, body bags, concrete burial vaults, and overpriced caskets, and putting us back into the earth where we can continue to feed the planet, and live on as energy forever.

29 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Really Great to Listen to.

Would you consider the audio edition of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes to be better than the print version?

I've never read the print version, but I really liked this as audio, it reminded me of listening to stories on NPR. I Listened to it everyday on my way to work, or when I was doing random stuff around the house. It was nice to be able to hear it and be transported away from the task at hand.

What does Caitlin Doughty bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It was nice to hear her read it. I'm an avid fan of Ask a Mortician, so it just made sense to not just read it myself but hear it from her point of view. It really sends home that this was her experience and just a random work of fiction.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I never wanted to get out of my car, I'd get to work and sit there until the very last second before I would become tardy.

Any additional comments?

This was my first purchase on Audible and it really turned me on to listening to audio books on my commute instead of random radio. Check out The Order of the Good Death too, all of Doughty's stuff is awesome!

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Honest details about mortality can help

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a quirky, slightly odd memoir that is exactly what the title says. I think the author's basic premise is truthful, that we are out of touch with our own mortality, and reading this book with its intimate details of death and decay may help lessen that denial. I would advise being sure you want to read about those sometimes disturbing but truthful details of what happens after death, how corpses are prepared for traditional funerals, and what exactly happens during cremation. I welcomed the honesty, but I know that others might not.

While I appreciated the parts about working in the crematory and current funeral practices, some of the author's writing about her personal life was disjointed and felt out of place with the rest of the book. Her contemplation of suicide and obsession with Luke bothered me more than decomposition and sweeping out the cremation machines. When I told a friend I was reading this, she thought it sounded morbid and ghoulish, which illustrates Doughty's point fairly well. Death will happen for all of us, and it won't be morbid or ghoulish if we learn more and talk about it. This book can help with that.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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MUST read

If you could sum up Smoke Gets in Your Eyes in three words, what would they be?

realities of death

What did you like best about this story?

Ms. Doughty is genuine and caring, graphic and honest about a subject that is often presented very clinically or euphemistically, when presented at all.

What about Caitlin Doughty’s performance did you like?

I prefer memoirs that are read by their authors because tone of voice, even when reading a well-written book, communicates so many nuances of meaning. She told her story well.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I could not get enough of this book. I was so disappointed to reach its end.

Any additional comments?

Everyone should read this book. Its vital message is presented so well that everyone will enjoy it too.

39 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Angelina
  • Califon, NJ, United States
  • 04-12-17

Didn't want it to end.

I've never been so happy with an author-narrated book. She's phenomenal. The book is beautiful, honest, and filled me with hope & positive feelings about a subject I've always been terrified of.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Eugenia
  • Chatsworth, CA, US
  • 01-19-18

Surprising and Insightful

Not what I expected---this is a rich, personal journey of the author's experiences in the funeral industry along with glimpses into her own life.
I was completely taken with her honesty, compassion and her wonderfully ironic humor. But also, she is a terrific writer as she expresses her experiences in this industry that she fully researched and worked in with love, admiration and sometimes disgust.
Not only did I learn about this subject in such an entertaining way, but what made this a cut above similar books was her unflinching personal revelations.
Loved it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Important Book on Confronting Mortality

What made the experience of listening to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes the most enjoyable?

Despite the subject matter being dark and difficult, Doughty makes it accessible through her humour, candid demeanor, and extensive knowledge of the subject matter.

What about Caitlin Doughty’s performance did you like?

She is a gifted reader and her wit and humour come out even more vividly hearing her speak her own words.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There are too many to list, but I was consistently moved by following along with Doughty's own emotional journey as she discovers more and more ways that we are disconnected from death, and by extension, disconnected from life itself.

Any additional comments?

Doughty's passion for the subject matter comes through clearly and effectively. She brilliantly weaves the history death in with her own personal experiences in the contemporary death industry.

Her argument for changing the way we interact with own mortality is a powerful challenge.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Great book

A wonderful memoir and a great/interesting/disturbing look into the business of death in this country.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work in a crematorium, this is the book for you! But it is also a deep dive into what our society does with its dead, and traditional funerals--with their costs, toxins, and formalized grief--don't come off well (as they should not). So if you are making end-of-life decisions, you may also want to read this book.

But it is also a memoir of a young woman in her first job. She observes the different cultural practices of the dead's families, she ruminates on suicide and mental illness, the men she works with, and her youth in Hawaii.

All in all, if you like memoirs, as I do, and enjoy learning when you read, I think you will enjoy this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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death should not be a mystery

loved this book and the insight it provides. covering the reality behind the curtain and the misinformation often given to grieving people

7 of 8 people found this review helpful