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Personal Effects

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Member Reviews

Enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and gives the reader a behind the scenes look into disasters; what the loved ones go through and the people who help bring them closure.
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Robert Jensen does an amazing job detailing how he helps people through the toughest times in their lives. He and his team go in after disasters, whether caused by man or mother nature and helps to identify the remains after these tragic events. He discusses how treating the dead with the utmost respect is the main priority for him. He is also the one called on many times to help the families who lost loved ones navigate the next steps. His compassion comes through on the page. He has helped after plane crashes, the Oklahoma City bombing, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and more. The work he and his team does is so important. He brings calm to the storm and helps families and loved ones to start the process of healing after losing a loved one in a major disaster. I absolutely recommend this book.
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This book deals with a subject that few, I know I am one, have never thought of. The author goes running into mass casualty events. Who picks up after a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami of 2004? The author and his company. 
The book really details what happens after a plane crash, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster. How does a loved one claim the personal effects of someone who died?

Overall, the book is a great look into the way remains of loved ones are identified and their personal effects returned to them.

My only critique is that the book should have been more streamlined. Go through all the plane crashed in order, then natural disasters, then terrorist attacks. Further, the author touches very briefly on how he is called into the disasters, but how do companies contract with him. How do governments contact him, basically HOW does he get paid, how many employees does he have.

A great insight into a subject that NO ONE wants to deal with, but we all face.
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Robert Jensen's "Personal Effects" offers unique insight into what happens after a disaster. Jensen owns Kenyon, the world's largest disaster management company, but, as clinical as that title may sound, Jensen offers a frank, heartwarming and fact-based perspective from someone who has seen perhaps more horrific scenes than anyone else. In a rambling, conversational style that avoids tragedy porn while still painting a clear picture of what can happen to the human body in the wake of a high-speed crash, a tsunami, a killer hurricane. 

"Personal Effects" is also a gentle but frank how-to to the leaders and corporations who have to deal with victims and survivors in the event of a disaster, should they be willing to take direction and consider the loss of humanity above the danger to their bottom line.

Jensen wraps up the book by addressing the ongoing global disaster of COVID-19. A resident of hurricane-prone Key West, he offers wise words of advice for anyone living in a flood, fire, or earthquake zone, or those who have or will have to face sudden loss in their lives. In Jensen's words, we must face and handle what we can control and leave the rest to unfold in time.

We are lucky that Jensen is committed to bringing up a new generation of disaster responders who will be prepared by his experience and, hopefully, inspired by his compassion.

All in all, "Personal Effects" is an important book in our unstable times (although Jensen points out that we've always been this unstable). This reader found "Personal Effects" calming, not needlessly sensational, and highly recommendable.
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I received an advance copy of, Personal Effects, by Robert A. Jensen.  Robert has a very interesting and sad job.  Going to disaster ares, like Oklahoma city bombing among others, and does so much.  Identifying the dead, and returning Personal Effects to the families in these devastating tragedies, is only some of his work.
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This is fascinating, and I really enjoyed the stories contained in the book. But it needs an enormous amount of better organization, with less repetition, and a little bit more sensitivity in the delivery. Organizing it by topic or by a linear timeline--wherein the author could refer to past and future events more coherently--would help readers considerably.
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Don't be intimidated by the subject matter. You will feel sadness because recovering bodies is, by its very nature, a devastating thing to do. However, Personal Effects brings you on the authors soul on the page, its so good. The more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading. It is fascinating work and humanizing the things found kept the authors work from becoming just another job, Please read Personal Effects. Its a page turner and I read it in one sitting :)
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In the end (pun intended), this book is simply too bleak. It's hard revisiting horrors and mass murders of the part even through the eyes of one who was there. Not as relevatory as one suspect and, after awhile, too much to take.
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Robert A. Jensen is a man you hopefully never have to meet, but if you do, there isn’t another person more suitable for his job. As Chairman of Kenyon International Emergency Services, Jensen has made a career out of responding to some of the worst disasters of the past twenty-five years – the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Haitian Earthquake of 2010, the fire in Grenfell Tower in 2017, the Thailand tsunami in 2004 and countless other plane crashes and terrorist attacks.

You would think that having to sort through the overwhelming amount of wreckage, personal effects and human remains would be bad enough, Robert is also tasked with meeting the families of those who have lost loved ones. There are others that are either afraid to be the bearer of bad news or will unintentionally mislead people in an effort to either soften the blow or offer up false hope, but Robert finds that being truthful and realistic is really the only course of action one can take. While Robert writes that this part of the job obviously isn’t something he enjoys, he knows that providing these families with as much information as possible will only allow them to begin their journey to processing their new reality.

Not only does Robert reminisce about his experiences in disasters both natural and man-made, he also discusses the advances in science over his career with regards to identifying human remains. He also shines a light on the political difficulties that come with repatriating those we’ve lost following a large-scale disaster. Robert’s work can be time sensitive and having to navigate the bureaucratic waters is frustrating to read about, especially the chapter focusing on Hurricane Katrina, an event that was not only a weather disaster, but also an organizational one.

The world we live in is not always an easy one and Robert has certainly seen the worst it has to offer. It is comforting to know that there is someone out there with empathy in his role. Robert could have easily grown numb or even jaded following disaster after disaster, but he never fails to put himself in the shoes of those who have suffered tremendous loss. PERSONAL EFFECTS is one of the most engaging and hopeful memoirs I have read in quite some time. It proves there are still good people out there in an age where every event is so divisive and politicized that we often forget our own humanity and capacity for good.
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A rare glimpse into a world you never knew existed, that of Kenyon International Emergency Services and the unique role of Robert A Jensen in providing families and countries with answers about what happened to their loved ones and citizens after disasters both natural and intentional but always catastrophic. 

(Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange of a honest review.)
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Fascinating and affecting. A recommended purchase for nonfiction collections where memoirs and forensic titles are popular.
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Date reviewed/posted: May 28,  2021
Publication date: September 28, 2021

When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave ( #fourthwave #fifthwave?) is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. Plus it is hot as all heck and nothing is more appealing than sitting in front of a fan with a kindle.!

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

The owner of the world’s leading disaster management company chronicles the unseen world behind the yellow tape and explores what it means to be human after a lifetime of caring for the dead.

You have seen Robert A. Jensen—you just never knew it. As the owner of the world’s largest disaster management company, he has spent most of his adult life responding to the tragedy. From the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, the Bali bombings, the 2004 South Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina to the 2010 Haitian Earthquake and the Grenfell Tower Fire, Jensen is at the practical level of international incidents, assisting with the recovery of bodies, identifying victims, and repatriating and returning their personal effects to the surviving family members. He is also, crucially, involved in the emotional recovery that comes after a disaster: helping guide the families, governments, and companies involved, telling them what to expect and managing the unmanageable. As he puts it, “If journalists write the first rough draft of history, I put the punctuation on the past.”

Personal Effects is an unsparing, up-close look at the difficult work Jensen does behind the yellow tape and the lessons he learned there. The chronicle of an almost impossible and grim job, Personal Effects also tells Jensen’s own story, how he came to this line of work, how he manages the chaos that is his life, and the personal toll the repeated exposure to mass death brings, in becoming what GQ called “the best at the worst job in the world.”

A rare glimpse into a world we all see but many know nothing about, Personal Effects is an inspiring and heartwarming story of survival and the importance of moving forward. Jensen allows his readers to see over his shoulder as he responds to disaster sites, uncovers the deceased, and cares for families to show how a strong will and desire to do good can become a path through the worst the world can throw at us.

Mr. Jensen does a job that not many people could do .. just watch the sublime "Sunshine Cleaning" to understand that statement more. This is not a book for everyone - it is a serious book that is to be contemplated and enjoyed - I plan to re-read it once hubby and sister have inhaled it as well.  Clean up is physically and mentally hard and chaotic and he's a rockstar hero to do this job AND share this story about how he learned from his work.  

It is wonderfully written and presented and I will recommend this book to friends, family, patrons, book clubs, and people reading books in the park as we do … I have had some of my best conversations about books down by the Thames!  This is a book that needed to be written - we need to remember those we lost and this proves it.

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🏚 🏚 🏚 🏚 🏚 (the closest I can get to a disaster was a derelict house!)
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This was a great book about a subject nobody thinks about. Fortunately, learning about this subject can do anyone a world of good.
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This book discusses the work that goes into the aftermath of large-scale disaster events, from recovering remains to reuniting personal effects with a deceased's loved ones, and the various events the author has been witness to over the years.

Fair warning: there are discussions of traumatic events such as bombings, plane crashes, and the burning of flesh. It's not graphic, but some readers, especially if they have been affected by PTSD or a mass trauma event may feel uncomfortable.

It's a riveting work, one that makes a reader want to continue on "just one more page", then another page, then another... until you realize you've hit the end.

The discussions are more focused on the humanizing aspect of the work: how families react after a mass trauma such as a plane crash, the need for coordinating with various governments/agencies/people, and the logistics behind pulling off such large-scale missions.

There are a few moments in the book where the author, an American, does lapse into British terms/slang, but they are brief and occur more past the halfway point in the work. It doesn't necessarily interrupt the overall flow of the narrative, but it does make the reader pause briefly. Since the author's company has locations in the US and the UK, the author may not have even realized he used them so.

Recommended for those who enjoy the works of Caitlin Doughty and Bryan Stevenson.
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I'm giving this book 3.5 (if possible) stars.  There is definitely an audience for this book but I didn't enjoy the and-then, and-then quality of the writing.  I also didn't get much from the author's description of his personal life.  I'm writing off my reaction to a difference in taste rather than an indication of the relative merits of this book.
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Note: If GR gave half-stars, I'd give this 3.5.

"Personal Effects" is the career memoir of Robert Jensen, head of the world's largest private disaster management company. Kenyon, his company, steps in when the unthinkable has happened: they retrieve human remains and effects, work to sort out their ownership, work with families to return them to next of kin in a way that respects the family's wishes and the deceased's individual beliefs.

While Jensen's work is by nature grim, the book's interest is not in gore. As the author moves from one international tragedy to another, he describes the logistical challenges that made this work necessary and the important communication role he and his colleagues serve. Over and again, he emphasizes the human reason for the specific choices they make, the tremendous respect and care that dictates the level of hyper-organization with which they approach their work. 

For those looking for morbid details, for the record--you won't find that here. While the author acknowledges situations in which the deceased's remains have been fragmented (an airplane crash, for example), he doesn't provide or dwell on these details. He notes facts of body condition as needed, but does so as tastefully as possible. 

What's iffier: This isn't a critique but simply a matter of personal desire--I wish the author had spent more time on the different disasters and the responses to them. I grasp why the author didn't (his story is more about his entire career, speaking to the unique challenges and lessons of each disaster; wading into every detail wouldn't have served that overarching goal). That said, I would have liked more info on each of these, just for my personal curiosity. 

Note: This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley.
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I really hope that this book get the attention it deserves. Honestly, I wish I could give it 10 stars and I'm not just saying that as a homeland security/emergency management grad student. So Robert A. Jensen does the job that none of us think about, he travels to mass fatalities to recover and identify as many human remains or personal belongings as possible to give families answers. Events like tsunamis, earthquakes, plane crashes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and even war, are all a part of the experiences that he tells and most are events we've seen in the news. However, this is not just another 'Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?' where we are just getting answers to the questions we don't want to ask. Jensen does go into some of the processes used to make identifications but he reflects deeply on how there's no such thing as "normal" in grief, especially when it comes to mass grief. He also acknowledges how his work influences how he lives his life in a very reflective way. Jensen details the importance of respect to both the dead and the living, while also highlighting the need for respecting how different families and cultures deal with death. Even though it is a morbid topic, I found this book somewhat reassuring and I honestly could just go on and on about how much I enjoyed it. I am not a big memoir/nonfiction fan but this is a book I will not be shutting up about for the foreseeable future. One of the biggest takeaways is how important it is for us to talk about death and that it shouldn't make us uncomfortable. With COVID-19, its lessons have become even more timely as we have to grapple with the extent of loss that has occurred over the past year. Personal Effects is a must read that teaches us a lot about how we recover the dead in almost impossible situations, how we as a society tend to deny the reality of death, and the first steps of healing from these mass fatality situations. 

Thanks to NetGalley and St Martin's Press for my ARC.
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Robert Jensen takes us into the world of his life's work in an up-close look into what occurs after mass tragedies. His devotion to his career and his care for those left behind are at the heart of this account.  It is not a piece of non-fiction to miss!
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Personal Effects: What Recovering the Dead Teaches Me About Caring for the Living - Robert A. Jensen ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A huge thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for this ARC!

I was absolutely fascinated by this book. The logistics and mental fortitude needed when handling disasters is mind-boggling.

First, the author was extremely respectful to both living and the dead throughout the book. While he did share stories of disasters he’s worked, he did so with the utmost respect to all the parties. Jensen showed a deep understanding of human emotion and none of this book felt exploitative.

Jensen also had a distinctive voice throughout the book. His opinions about bureaucratic red tape and lack of planning was definitely shared. However, he’s the expert, so it never came off like he was pushing an agenda. He just was very honest about the highs and lows of the job.

One of my qualms was that it was repetitive at times. But I guess when you are dealing with disasters like this, the location and type of disaster may be different but the outcomes are the same. There are still dead people and there are still family members needing to know about the dead. So while the repetition was a tad distracting, it also made sense given the subject.

Overall, this was a humbling book about living and dying. The author really expressed a deep respect for human life and death and what that looks like in different cultures. If you’re looking for a great nonfiction read, check this one out in September!
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Book Review for Personal Effects
Full review for this title will be posted at: @cattleboobooks on Instagram!
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