From Margaret Mezzacapo
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Title: Smoke gets in your eyes : and other lessons from the crematory
What? An interesting, informative, and occasionally amusing book about death and cremation?In a word, yes. Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician, has managed to pull off this seemingly incongruous combo. She recounts her experiences work-wise, beginning with her first job as a crematory operator, and gives a lot of background information about what she refers to as the “death industry.” Witty, irreverent, and sometimes graphic, this memoir provides food for thought.
From: Andrea Kalinowski
Author: Alexandra Mosca
Title: Grave undertakings : mortician by day, model by night– one woman’s true-life adventures
I was browsing the catalog one day and this particular title so intrigued me, I had to immediately place a reserve upon it. I then anxiously awaited its arrival. The book was entitled Grave undertakings: mortician by day, model by night – one woman’s true-life adventures by Alexandra Kathryn Mosca and it caught my interest from page one. Alexandra’s birth mother died in childbirth and that is only the beginning of Alexandra’s trials. One would think that if an individual or a couple wants to adopt a child, it is done as a humanitarian, selfless act but this is often far from the case. Alexandra’s adoptive parents were mentally and physically abusive and, at sixteen, she went out on her own. From an early age, the pomp and pageantry of funerals and death had fascinated her and she decided her calling was that of mortician. At the time of her decision, this was a career field that did not welcome women. The majority of her fellow classmates at Undertaking College were the children of established funeral families so they already had a position awaiting them. Alexandra had to convince the male establishment of her skills and even then, she was quite often relegated to the position of lady attendant. A lady attendant was the person designated to come in and make up the deceased. Alexandra had a hard time breaking into her field but most of the time managed to keep her spirits high and her determination strong. She proved to me, that if you have a desire and a willingness to sacrifice, anything is possible.
From Jackie Cantwell
author: McKenzie, Kenneth and Harra, Todd
Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt
A compilation of true stories by morticians and funeral directors across
the U.S. Each chapter’s author is identified by a hobby or interest he
pursues outside his career. There are 5 sections: “First calls and
removals”, where the worker is informed there’s a body that needs to be
picked up from a nursing home, a private home, etc. A memorable chapter
is “Roadblock” about a man new to the business, who loves snowy winters,
until he has to do a removal by himself and accidentally drops the body.
The section “Where art meets science” has an anecdote called “The glass
eye and other expectations” which gives a sense of how difficult the
profession can be when survivors don’t give enough information. By far,
the most moving chapter is “Lesson: never go to bed angry” in “Family
matters”, where a young woman learns one of life’s most important lessons
too late. Reading it could change your life. “The killer customer”,
features a remorseful biker named Snake whose mother has died. “Wake
combat” in “Wakes, funerals and burials” tells the almost-unbelievable
tale of two brothers brawling at their father’s wake. And in the “In our
private lives” section, “The tapestry of life” tells the sorrowful tale of
a funeral director who had to bury two of his friends. The book is funny,
sad, and evocative.