Michelle's Reviews > Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff by Mary Roach
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's review
Feb 28, 2010

really liked it
Read in January, 2010

The curious lives of human cadavers indeed. I think few of us have considered what actually happens to our bodies after we are no longer in need of them. Ms. Roach has not only considered it but researched it rather extensively. She meets cadavers up close and personal, from the donated cadavers today's medical students dissect, to those plastinated by an artist. She exposes the various stages of decomposition, both natural and either impeded or enhanced according to treatment of the body. She covers the historical values which led early anatomists to become body snatchers and emerging attitudes regarding appropriate disposal methods for our remains.

I suspect that, owing to the somewhat gruesome topic, Roach wisely begins the book with more palatable and familiar concepts with regards to corpses. As the book progresses we are led to increasingly bizarre practices both in history and current times. Through it all she injects a dry wit that is somewhat irreverent toward the concepts she presents is in no way disrespectful toward those who may donate their bodies to science. In fact, she covers very nicely the struggles of medical students and funeral directors and the various coping mechanisms they develop in order to do their respective jobs respectfully and professionally.

All in all, it was a fascinatingly informative read with just the right amount of humor to keep it from becoming overwhelming.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Embee (new)

Embee I have also read and enjoyed this book. As for me, I'd like that, I believe it was a Swiss method, where the body is made chopped up into a form of 'mulch' and used to fertilize new trees.

This could however be a detriment as I've never been very good with plants.

Michelle yes, i remember the swiss mulching method. i cracked up at your concern citing your poor history as a gardener. i have the same problem. for a number of years now i've preferred the idea of a "green burial" in which there is no vault in the burial plot, no embalming of the body, just an unbleached shroud, and a plain wooden casket so everything decomposes naturally.

message 3: by Petar X (last edited Mar 04, 2010 06:05PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Petar X Embee wrote: "This could however be a detriment as I've never been very good with plants..."

Cracked me up, too.

I read it and enjoyed it. But its not a book I want to think about too often.

Michelle lol, fair enough!

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