Smoke and Miracles

SarahWhat do death rituals and miraculous births have in common? They figure prominently in the latest two books Sarah has read. Find out more about them by reading her reviews listed below. And as always, check out our Facebook page for more reviews from Sarah and the latest happenings at the Everett Public Library.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory
Caitlin Doughty

smokeHaving always been fascinated by death, Caitlin Doughty took a job as a crematorium operator at a funeral home in Oakland, California. This book chronicles her exposure to the funeral industry and her perspectives on death and the human body. Caitlin’s duties involve picking up bodies from various locales, including the coroner’s office and hospitals. She deals with the deceased’s family and friends when retrieving bodies from their homes. She notices a huge discrepancy between people’s comfort levels with death. Some prefer to wash and dress their loved ones themselves, and others don’t want anything to do with the corpse. Our culture has trained us to relinquish ownership of death, and leave tasks once done at home, to the direction of undertakers.

Caitlin intertwines death culture from around the world, emphasizing the American people’s isolation from death. As more people die in medical environments, rather than home, many people go through life with little or no exposure to dead bodies. She gets trained on how to operate the cremation furnaces, and uses frank, honest language to describe a procedure most have never seen. As a warning, there are very graphic descriptions as she goes through the process; I recommend avoiding eating while reading. As Caitlin progresses in her funeral operator career, her vision becomes more concrete. She wants to make death accessible to people, and open a dialog on a topic most would like to avoid. This is a unique and honest memoir.

The Girl Who Slept with God
Val Brelinski

girlwhoJory’s sister Grace returns from a missionary trip to Mexico a little early, and with a big surprise. She’s pregnant, and she is insistent that it’s a miracle conception, and she’s having God’s baby. Jory’s father Oren is a prominent college astronomy professor. While scientific in his work, he is a devout evangelical in his faith, and has raised his 3 daughters accordingly. In their small, rural community, Oren decides to move Grace into a rural homestead, and instates Jory as her overseer and companion. Grace is pulled from school, and Jory is forced to attend a public rural high school, quite the shock from her previous Christian academy. Pulled away from their family, the girls struggle with being abandoned. They find friendship in an elderly neighbor woman, who provides motherly advice. Jory tests the boundaries of adolescence, experimenting with boys, substances and developing a friendship with an illicit ice cream man. A beautiful coming-of-age story, and remarkable debut from Brelinski, who was raised in an evangelical household herself.

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