This book is amusing, though after the first few chapters a little boring. I was sufficiently grossed out by the chapter regarding human decompositionThis book is amusing, though after the first few chapters a little boring. I was sufficiently grossed out by the chapter regarding human decomposition, and the bit about the embalming process and how funeral homes prepare the body was particularly interesting to me when I found myself sitting at a wake the evening after reading it. I couldn't stop thinking about how the dearly departed's eyelids were held down by a little disk that pinned into his eyeball so the lids wouldn't pop open.
I'm not all that interested in crash-test dummies for some reason, so I skipped over that part. The airplane crash bit scared the shit out of me.
Mary Roach's voice is strong and clearly passionate about the subject, without being weirdly passionate/creepy. She's often unsure of how much she really wants to know about this stuff too. I can definitely see being annoyed by all of the jokey comments she makes, but it didn't really bother me all that much. I read it as sort of a self-conscious attempt at making sure the readers know she's not a creep. ...more
I was drawn to this book for obvious reasons (death and dying) and was excited to read a book about the medical field that wasn't all fiction-y and so I was drawn to this book for obvious reasons (death and dying) and was excited to read a book about the medical field that wasn't all fiction-y and soap opera-y. I heard about this in the New York Times, and someone had cited it as one of the best books of 2007. After reading it, I find that title somewhat surprising, unless it was judged on the unique subject matter and not the writing itself.
Pauline Chen is a doctor, not a writer (she described a nurse's eyebrows as "luxuriant"), but nonetheless deserves respect for creating a document about something few really want to talk or think about, especially doctors. That said, I sort of wish this were written by a social worker instead. Chen details many interesting cases but basically says the same thing over and over again: doctors have a hard time talking and thinking about death. Wow. Revelatory. She seems surprised to make the connection that doctors feel immortal after being desensitized to death-and Chen herself is only really touched it seems when she is dealing with either a family member or someone who looks exactly like her. Now, if a social worker had written this, elementary transference would probably not be so surprising, and perhaps the revelations would have been a little more interesting coming from someone trained in self-reflection. Instead, I feel more knowledgeable about how doctors think, but not what it's really like to connect with someone who's dying.
I am glad that there is a doctor out there who really cares about doing good work with terminal patients, though. There are only a few of them. You don't really get a lot of glory if all of your patients die, but I don't think there are many more rewarding things to do.
So this lady is apparently a professor at Columbia but she wasn't around much during the time I was there, and when she was, she wasn't all that frienSo this lady is apparently a professor at Columbia but she wasn't around much during the time I was there, and when she was, she wasn't all that friendly or helpful to me. I wanted to talk to her because her social work practice is in line with what I want mine to be and so on, you know. She evaded my emails and generally behaved less than social worky towards me. So when I picked this book up to read for a class I was taking, I kind of looked at it bitterly and expected to feel superior to it. I mean, I "survived" a parent's death from cancer, so what can some avoidant lady tell me that I don't already know??
Well, despite my most antagonistic intentions, I found this book to be immensely useful and true. It's not all that earth-shattering in terms of what it exposes about kid's response to a parent's death/dying, but it clearly lays out that response in a way that's very helpful. The most useful aspect is that GHC sets it up in terms of age groups and describes the developmental process along the way, making suggestions about how to explain death to children as young as 2 and as old as 17. She also interviewed a slew of parents and children and every other chapter is a narrative section aligned with the age group she's describing.
I have found in my clinical experience that parents who are struggling with these issues want clear and concrete things they can say to their kids and this book gives really great suggestions. Some parents just need to feel like they aren't fucking up, and this book normalizes their kids' behavior and makes them less stressed out about dealing with them while they are also managing their own emotions. I give this to parents also as a way to confirm to them that they are doing most everything right already, and that's the best gift I think.
In sum, if you have the need for this type of information (and I hope you don't)it's highly useful to clinicians, and as my patients and families say, to parents. It sort of made me feel very boring, as I can see my own experience echoed within parts of the text. I'm so normal, ick. ...more
I read this book on the train to my job at the dying hospital. I thought at the time that it wasn't as amazing as I expected, but thinking about it noI read this book on the train to my job at the dying hospital. I thought at the time that it wasn't as amazing as I expected, but thinking about it now, I think it's just right. I hear many stories each day from people who are either dying or losing someone, and this one doesn't stand out at all. Joan Didion expresses what most people who have ever known someone who died expresses, and that's the point I guess. And why the book is successful. I think that it's interesting how people are so up in arms about how Didion writes from a standpoint of privilege. I have often noticed that people who are used to getting what they want because of their money, status, etc, act crazier in the face of death than those without such advantages. It's as if they are shocked that they can't have their way and death happens no matter how famous, rich, and smart they are. I wonder if there could be a difference in their exhibition of magical thinking due to this. Someone should do a study (not me). In any event, I am glad that this book has gotten so much attention because it's allowed more of a discourse on often repressed subjects. Something that inevitably helps when in the situation. So, basically, I like this book because it helps make my job easier. She wrote this for ME! Maybe it should get four stars.......more