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

5 Stars, Again!

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, Narrated by Caitlin Doughty
Audiobook 7+ Hours, Released September 2014
Amazon ♦ Goodreads
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. 

My Thoughts:

“A girl always remembers the first corpse she shaves.”

I sometimes think I’ve missed my life’s true calling. That of being a mortuary worker. But after reading this book I’m not so sure. I always thought the idea of working with people who didn’t talk back was a nice one, you know? No office politics, no grumpy personalities to tip-toe around, no one stealing your lunch and there’s never a lack of business. Sounds like bliss to me. Until I read this book which shattered those daydreams. There are some unsavory, heartbreaking and infuriating parts of the job that I never considered like . . .

Incinerating Babies
Gushing molten fat
Cheap ass relatives
Moving heavy bodies into the incinerator by yourself
Heads. Yep. Just the heads.

But then again, no job is perfect, right?

Caitlin Doughty captures her experiences while working at a mortuary and later going to school to make it official, with humor, insight and horror. I loved every captivating word. She has an extremely fanciful imagination and morbid wit that keeps you listening even when things get really dark or really disgusting and believe me they get disgusting!

She delves deep into the history of death rituals and how it all evolved into the system currently in place today. She doesn’t pull any punches and explains how embalming, though once a necessity on the battlefield, has morphed into nothing more than a money maker for the death industry. Fascinating! I always wondered why bodies weren’t buried naturally and given back to the earth and now I know the reason and it’s pretty damn depressing.

Doughty narrates this audiobook and she does a fantastic job. She knows her material best, after all, and her voice is clear and pleasant to listen to. She adds humor in all the right spots and it never feels forced. She has a strong grasp on the toll that being surrounded by death brings on those who deal with it day in and day out. She and her co-workers look at the world a little differently than most folks. I guess it’s hard not to when you face down death and deal with the aftermath every day. Death happens to everyone sooner or later and there’s no point living your life fearful of it coming for you. And it is coming for you!

“We are just future corpses.”

If you’re a morbid sort such as I, I highly recommend this book to you.

Caitlin DoughtyA Bit About the Writer

Mortician Caitlin Doughty—host and creator of "Ask a Mortician" and the New York Times best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes —founded The Order of the Good Death. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA.

You can check find out more about Caitlin at her website:


  1. So I just totally hopped over to my library site and put this on hold. It sounds just weird enough to be enjoyable and I'm curious to check it out. She kind of sounds like someone I would be friends with - which is probably half cool and half scary!

  2. Wow. That sounds so interesting and so off-putting all at the same time. O_O

  3. This sounds like something I would love...Added it to my reading list. Couldn't help but laugh at your opening review sentence. lol
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. She has a fantastic way with words and morbid humor ;) I hope you love it as much as I did!

  4. I loved this book! This was one that just showed up at my house and I am so happy it did. I bet she did a great job narrating this one.

  5. So, after my youngest daughter died, when I had to call the hospital mortuary to see if she'd been cremated yet, the lady working there told me "Oh, no, honey, we wait until we have enough (before we cremate)" and since that day I've had the image I can't shake in my head of hospital mortuaries where someone's loved babies are piled atop a table, waiting until there's enough to incinerate all at once.

    Dealing with the fact that I know that my daughter's ashes in her urn aren't just her ashes, but the ashes of a bunch of other dead babies as well.

    I could not ever be a mortuary worker. It sounds like this lady found a way of coping with it all, though!

    1. That is one of the most hard to read parts of the book. You'd think they'd figure a way around this :(

  6. I used to work in a pathology lab. Part of my job was disposal of body parts the doctor was finished with including colons and rectums. The worst thing was disposing of POC (products of conception) It meant scraping out plastic pots with your latex gloved hand, knowing it was the remains of abortions and miscarriages. You need a strong stomach for the job, that's for sure.

  7. Oh I don't know...not having to talk to people might be with the trade off lol

    Yay for 5 star (or 5 cat) reads!

    For What It's Worth

    1. Yeah, I could do just fine without talking to people all day!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt | Book Review

Retro Review: Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (Audio Review)