Cover Image: All the Living and the Dead

All the Living and the Dead

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A beautifully written work with the perspectives of those that work in the death professions. Morbidly fascinating and written with great respect for the dead these professionals work with and unique perspectives on facing and dealing with death.
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I love nonfiction and was so delighted to hear about ALL THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. It was well written and enjoyable to read. I’ve already bought a hardback for research on one of my books!
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Real Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded up

A book with a truly tragic genesis, the author losing a baby at birth; but it led her to look for her grief to be assuaged in discovering the connective tissue in our society's death industry. She made a terrible tragedy into a very interesting study and came away with the kind of book that many of us read with squeamishness as we're utterly disconnected from death.

No one doesn't think about death, and dying; and, as we've professionalized and medicalized every part of the process, we're going to the bookshelf for our answers. Luckily there are those among us who like learning things and then explaining them. (As long as they're not men, they're lauded for it.) Author Hayley Campbell did a major research project in this book's genesis. It comes across more in the endnotes...they're extensive. I realize I'm very much in the minority here, but I prefer endnotes with spiffy little superscript numbers that, in ebooks, function as hyperlinks; I'm perfectly willing to navigate away from the page when I want to know something's source. But la, the wishes and the wants of one not the author, or the editor, are mere wing-flappings of the tiniest of midges. (I'm waxing lyrical. Send help!) Encountering, for example, the saline hydrocremation process was something I wanted to know more about right then and there...but you can bet your sweet bippy I've bookmarked the UK <I>WIRED Magazine</i> story for future discovery.

A less delightful thing that somewhat tarnished my reading experience, and is the source of the missing half-star on the rating about, was the lived experience of her tragic loss of a baby. It was very, very present in the text. It is a loss second to none in the world for painful permanence. As such it felt, to be honest, overused as a rhetorical device. This is a subjective measure, and I freely acknowledge that a recently bereaved parent might find this inclusion unobtrusive, or positively helpful. I did not.

The other side of that coin, however, was my discovery that there are certain souls, who if there is a god deserve a total and complete remission from their sins, who specialize in bereavement midwifery. How very, very beautiful a soul those people must possess. How vast their reserves of kindness and empathy must be. And how deeply glad I am that they do this job.

Executioners, on the utterly other hand, aren't people I think should be employed. I have this wacky idea that killing people is wrong. Killing them as a profession is not one iota different in my own eyes to being a serial killer. And that, mes vieux, is that. (The executioner interview was interesting, I will admit, but changed my opinion not one jot.)

While I'm sure others might feel triggered at a frank discussion of the process of one's body's cessation of function, it fascinated me. It is a sad truth that most people in today's Western, privileged society have little or nothing to do with their dying fellow beings. They're the ones most in need of this book's honesty. I fear they won't pick it up and I truly advise you, should you be so unfortunate as to face your own mortality in an imminent way, to read and gift this fascinating story of what dealing with death truly entails.

I will always advocate for the "it's better to know than to wonder and fear" end of the information-reading spectrum. Author Hayley makes the process of educating yourself about the aftermath of dying as painless and as compelling as is, for example, one of the mysteries or thrillers that so many of us devour.
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All of us has had some type of experience with the death of someone.  This book goes in depth with the people who assist them (executioners), embalmers, funeral directors and medical examiners and a variety of other people as well as how it affects their mental health.  This was such a compelling and eye opening book.  Wonderfully written and you can tell a lot of research was done.

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review of my own thoughts and opinions.
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This book was informative and spiritual. It opened my eyes and satisfied my curiosity. It is written with the utmost respect for the dead and for the people who work with them day in and day out.
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Ms Campbell tactfully approaches our perception of death and roles associated with it in modern Western cultures. By analyzing each role in a snapshot provided by her extensive research and interviews, readers gain a better appreciation for the unsung heroes who stand on the threshold of two worlds. Quotes are carefully cited and further reading list provided for further investigation. Short index and memorable chapter titles make for easy navigation. It is an emotional journey to read, but an enlightening one as well.
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All the Living and the Dead is by Hayley Campbell, a prolific writer and journalist from the UK who has written for numerous publications, including BuzzFeed, GQ, and the Guardian. This is her second book, following The Art of Neil Gaiman, which she published in 2014.

In a similar style to books by Caitlin Doughty, Campbell interviews and writes about a wide range of people who make their living working with the dying and the dead. Among those she speaks with are a retired executioner, a bereavement midwife, embalmers, and a man who cleans up messy scenes of death. As a social worker who deals with death, dying, and grief frequently professionally, and is interested in these topics personally, I enjoyed this book deeply. It brought an empathic and fascinating lens to the topic of death, which opened my understanding of what it means to live, to die, and to care for both the living and the dead.

** Thanks so much to NetGalley, Hayley Campbell, and St. Martin's Press for this ARC! All the Living and the Dead is out now! **
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Hayley Campbell takes her readers on a journey across continents and through doors most people never get to see behind.  Doors which, honestly, most people probably don't want to see behind.

With chapters detailing her visits and experiences with various members of the "death industry", Campbell introduces us to embalmers, pathologists, detectives, morticians, gravediggers, and more.  She talks with the people responsible for cremations, for putting make-up on corpses, for dealing with large-scale disasters, for flipping the switch when a person is executed.

I found this book to be less humorous than many of the recent offerings dealing with this subject matter.  Although Campbell does share some of the dry quips that her interviewees gave her, this particular book is more introspection than anything.  Campbell is working through some things herself as she learns more and more about the industry and the people who work within it, and she shares her doubts and questions with the readers as she goes along.

I found the chapter on bereavement midwives and pregnancy/infant loss to be heartbreaking.  As a woman who has experienced this particular grief personally, those pages brought up memories so strong that I could only read a little at a time before having to put the book down.

All in all, a book full of interesting people doing interesting (and yes, a bit macabre) jobs, with a bit of philosophizing on the part of the author - who does not try to give us answers, but rather simply states facts and brings up questions.  Enjoyable and fascinating for those who like learning about the darker side of things.
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Thanks to John Scalzi for tweeting about this book and putting it on my radar.

I found this book absolutely fascinating. I had never consider the careers people have (beyond a funeral home director) that involve death. This book is in depth and explores little talked about careers.
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Really intriguing book. I applaud the author for the amount of research put into the subject of death and how she is able to dismantle a lot of taboos surrounding the subject of death.
As humans I think most of us have a difficult time navigating anything dealing with death and this book helps make it feel more “normal” and less scary. 
The way she somehow managed to tell the stories of people and also explore so many different subjects was impressive. 
Unfortunately it was a little info heavy for me and I had to set it down. Hoping to come back to it sometime in the future though.
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This was really insightful and thought provoking. At some points the execution lacked and could be slow but over all the book was pretty strong.some parts may be disturbing for readers. For me, I was over all fine. But it did get graphic. I think it was a very fascinating read. It seemed very well researched. Very informative and real.
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Absolutely devoured and loved this ARC. I have always had a morbid curiosity and found this book fascinating. The cover art is gorgeous. Definitely fitting for fans of Stiff or Caitlin Doughty.
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Full of life…

Seems a bit of a strange description, really, given the subject of this book, right? Yet it fits. The author took an obsession, which she began as a child, and used her journalistic talents to investigate and find out the truth. Why were the dead and dying a taboo subject? It happens to everyone. Yet it is the one thing we can’t speak directly about until it actually happens to us. And then we aren’t exactly talking, are we…

Instead, this book covers the many people who deal with, manage, and experience the many roads that lead up to that moment. From the people who die naturally, to those who died violently. To those who planned ahead and donated their bodies to science. There were stories that break my heart and those that simply provided interesting factoids. Through it all, the author’s voice provided warmth and humanness to a topic that could simply be morbid. Far from it, this book was entertaining and informative, on a topic that we all (I imagine) think more about as we get older…

Perhaps a primer for those of us creeping slowly closer to the finish line, it raised my eyebrows and my understanding… Recommended for anyone who thinks about death, dying or had any questions about medical school cadavers (that’s in here too!). A top-notch non-fiction read…
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I'm not going to lie, All the Living and the Dead isn't going to be for everyone, but in a very real way I really want to say that it is a book (as with the books of Caitlin Doughty) that everyone should read. Death is honestly one of the most hushed conversations in our modern world, particularly for those of us in the west, and it absolutely shouldn't be. There is a genuine need for all of us to confront this looming shadow and truly understand and comprehend its shape in order to process it, in order to grieve, and to truly be aware of the facets of it that give life so much of its weight. Campbell's book is a series of conversations and experiences with those who work in the death care industry as well as herself, an honest expression of the trauma she finds in her journey to understand death and her observations about each facet of how the Dead are treated in the varying points of the process and some of the taboo places many won't go to confront  sudden or sentenced death.  

 All of the chapters are solid in their handling of the subject, but I was particularly struck by those dealing with ABTs and infant death, as much due to my personal understanding of infant loss and her care and personal trauma over confronting it as a woman who hasn't chosen to become a mother herself. I highly recommend this book if you're a person tackling the complexities of death in the many levels of that process and as an exploration of what we do as humans to care for and love the Dead even when their spirit has gone from the body.
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The premise of this book was very promising. The execution however fell flat. The best way I can describe it is that the writing was very monotone and I found myself just wanting to skim to hopefully get to something more interesting.
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I really enjoyed this book- I think the author brings a unique and much needed view to the world of those who work with the dead. I think Hayley Campbell stands among other titans in the industry, like Catlin Doughty. I look forward to reading more from this author.
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I quite enjoyed this exploration of careers/vocations dealing with death. The author interviews an executioner, embalmers, crime scene cleanup crews, grave diggers, a midwife, morticians, etc. She even describes some 'hands on' learning opportunities. It's very interesting to learn how they see/deal with their chosen careers, but it may not be something for the easily squeamish, as she describes some of the scenes in front of her. I felt she ends up presenting an overall positive message. This nurse thinks it a good read, & I recommend it to anyone who likes to learn about other people's jobs, & maybe what made them choose that career!
I received this e-book from publisher St. Martin's Press via NetGalley, in return for reading it & offering my own fair & honest review.
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I tend to stick to true crime when it comes to non-fiction picks, but after reading Mary Roach’s book Stiff, I’ve been seeking out non-fiction titles that focus on the complexities of death. Before you think this book sounds like too morbid of a read, know that Campbell’s book is about more than death. There is so much care and compassion throughout this book from both Campbell and those she interviews. I was touched so many times from the first-hand accounts of the interviewees and I learned far more than I ever thought possible from this book. Sure, death is macabre, but it’s also something that we’re all going to face one day, so why not take the time to learn more? I greatly appreciate all of the work that went into this book and highly recommend it!

A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for my gifted copy!
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I have to admit that I feel a bit weird giving a book all about the details of death five stars. But, I have to. Hayley Campbell has written so carefully and honestly about a topic that most of us fear and made it understandable and eye-opening. I was riveted even though I had to step away from it frequently and read something a bit happier. This is not a book for everyone. I do NOT recommend this to someone suffering from a grave illness, to someone who has just recently lost a loved one, or to someone that has a weak stomach. This book is graphically detailed and it needs to be. What Campbell went through to give us the behind-the-scenes of death is literally life-changing. I won’t ever look at death the same way and I have even come to some conclusions about what I want my own final journey to look like.

“…the first dead body you see should not be someone you love…You need to be able to separate the shock of seeing death from the shock of grief.”
Poppy Mardall, Funeral Director in ALL THE LIVING AND THE DEAD by Haley Campbell

Campbell’s chapters give us information on all parts of death including those who donate their body to science and the process offered by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She shares something I knew nothing about, a death mask. There are artists that create masks of people after they die that allow their images to last forever. Some of this book is set in London, where the author lives. So, some of the death and dying rituals she shares are different. In fact, I was shocked that funeral directors in the UK do not need a license as they do here in the US.

One whole chapter is devoted to Kenyon Internation and their work in recovering bodies after disasters. I previously shared about this company in the book, PERSONAL EFFECTS. I found the chapter devoted to the person who “flips the switch” at prison executions quite fascinating. I had never considered the difficulties that prison staff face caring for a prisoner for years only to then be the same person to cause their death.

She interviewed crime scene cleaners and those who come after the horrific events and make them disappear. I was shocked that these companies share pictures on social media for others to view the macabre scenes the staff find upon entering the gruesome scenes.

The heartbreaking chapter of a nurse who works only in a separate maternity ward for mothers who greet and say goodbye to their babies in the space set aside only for them. If only all hospitals had a completely different ward where mothers that came to the hospital knowing they would not be taking their babies home to the beautifully decorated nurseries, where they didn’t have to hear the cries of other babies, and hear joyful families celebrating new siblings or grandbabies. This chapter gutted me and made me grateful to the women who choose to work in this space.

In 2018, I read Caitlin Doughty’s book, SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES in which she shares her experiences as a crematory worker and subsequently how she has changed the idea of death for many people through her website and services. Both Doughty’s book and now Campbell’s description of the embalming process have made me wonder if cremation isn’t the right choice for me. I was surprised that organ donation wasn’t a part of this book. Even if you don’t donate your body to science, you can still choose to donate specific or any and all organs to those living that need them. I am passionate about organ donation and would have been curious about this process.

Many of the people interviewed in the book were doing the good and right thing, even though no one will ever notice or know. There is tender care in death and for all the people who work in this field, there is no question of your heart for others. Campbell’s book is a no-secrets, behind-the-scenes look at all aspects of death and dying. Campbell writes honestly and will leave you questioning how you want your final journey to look.
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This was a beautiful book.   The concept that you can tell about how cultures treat the living based on how they treat the dead wasn’t one that I was familiar with, but after reading this I see the wisdom behind the philosophy.   The compassionate manner with which the author examines tragic things kept this book from being too grim, and I found reading it to be a really cathartic experience.

Thank you so much Netgalley & St. Martin’s Press for the eArc.
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