Doughty, Caitlin. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory. Norton. Sept. 2014. 256p. notes. ISBN 9780393240238. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393245950.
When Doughty graduated college with a degree in medieval history, potential employers weren’t exactly knocking down her door. To indulge a morbid curiosity, she applied to jobs at funeral homes until the family-owned mortuary Westwind Cremation & Burial in Oakland, CA, hired her as a crematory operator. Her memoir documents her first six years working in the American funeral industry. Doughty blows the lid off of what happens after life leaves a body, pulling back the formaldehyde curtain. In a narrative that’s not for the faint of heart, she describes the process of cremating a body, shaving a corpse, and, even more horrifying, picking up stillbirths from the hospital. But by including stories on how different societies have dealt with death throughout history, she takes readers on a comprehensive journey that is not only thought provoking but also a call to arms. The author argues that our collective fear of dying makes it difficult to face life’s reality. VERDICT Even though Doughty’s memoir is difficult to stomach at times, it is well researched, candid, and will inspire a careful consideration of one’s own mortality. [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.](via Books To Make Your Stomach Churn | Memoir)
Librarians love this book so much it was the top pick for September and also garnered a starred review in Library Journal.
Miss Elisabeth: “This week I read, no, devoured, a new release by a debut author. The Queen of the Tearling, by Ericka Johansen, is everything you could possibly ask for in an adult fantasy - there’s excellent world building, great character development, a breakneck pace, and most importantly, a strong, confident, intelligent heroine at the center of a swirling maelstrom of political intrigue. It’s the best thing I’ve read in a long, long while. The book begins as our heroine, Kelsea, turns 19 and is escorted by armed guards from her secluded, secret childhood home to the castle of the kingdom she is meant to rule - The Tearling. The story is set on a continent that erupted from the sea after a natural disaster several thousand years in the future, and the world is an intricate blend of acknowledgements of things we have now such as eBooks, and the seven volumes of Rowling, medieval feudal societies, and grim references to the events that caused a modern world to be replaced so thoroughly. Although the character is young, the book is decidedly adult - language and references to sex means this is NOT a good crossover title for 14 year-olds. The author was inspired to create her heroine after hearing then presidential hopeful Barack Obama speak about hope and change in 2008. The movie rights have already been sold, the script is being written, and Emma Watson is set to star. I can’t wait for the sequel and the movie!”
Remind me to review a novel and describe it by exclaiming, “her novel has the rich, chaotic vibrancy of a Walmart” or similar. After all, that’s a marketplace, too.
Speaking of Thrity Umrigar reviews, you should check out this librarian’s review of her forthcoming novel The Story Hour, coming August 19th:
Another beautifully written novel by Thrity Umrigar. A relationship develops between Maggie, a psychologist, and Lakshmi, a troubled Indian woman. As their stories develop, it is hard to figure out which woman does more to impact the other’s life. Highly recommended.
WHAT ON EARTH IS SEP DOING? PART 2 Not much longer and you’ll get the whole story behind this photo of me in my swim suit. Taken by Mr. Bill last January when it was 14 degrees F. Wonder if there’s any connection between this ridiculous photo and Peregrine Island, Maine, the setting of HEROES ARE MY WEAKNESS??? Hmmm…..
Here’s a photo of the LibraryReads Steering Committee (missing only Kaite) together at their retreat in Chicago. I think it might be the first time they have all been in the same place in person, and also the best use of panorama I have ever seen.