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November 2014

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

smokegets

Last year I reviewed a book about a forensic anthropologist, where I mentioned I do work related to death. It is one part of what I do, and (at least for now) has never actually involved me providing after-death care, or even arranging for it. It’s a possibility, though. And it is a field that I find unendingly interesting.

I can’t remember who recommended this book to me, but I’d like to say thank you. Its premise is one young woman’s experience working in a crematory. Most of the book – I’d say maybe 70% – involves stories from her time there, seamlessly woven with interesting notes about how different cultures have handled death of the millennia. She does a really fantastic job at this, especially since this is her first book. The book takes a bit of a shift towards the dark about three-quarters of the way through (I know, how much darker can it get? It’s a book about death! But it does), but it finishes up nicely.

Ms. Doughty’s book points out all of the ways that we have turned death into something to be hidden and feared. This is a relatively new construction – at least the hidden part. Many cultures have feared death forever, and some have just seen it as a way of life. Ms. Doughty, while a part of the death care industry, learns through her experiences that she wants to provide a different way of understanding and recognizing death. I’ve not yet read any of her blog posts (http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/) but I plan to, because I find her perspective interesting.

I bought this book at 1 P.M. today; I’m writing the review just before 6 P.M. I literally only put the book down to use the bathroom and to fold some laundry. That’s it. And at 240 pages, it’s not a short book. But it’s an interesting one, and one that I think has value not just for those who find the death care industry interesting, but for those who think that maybe there’s something missing from how we handle death in the U.S.

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