All the Living and the Dead

From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work

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Pub Date 16 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 30 Aug 2022


A deeply compelling exploration of the death industry and the people—morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, executioners—who work in it and what led them there.

We are surrounded by death. It is in our news, our nursery rhymes, our true-crime podcasts. Yet from a young age, we are told that death is something to be feared. How are we supposed to know what we’re so afraid of, when we are never given the chance to look?

Fueled by a childhood fascination with death, journalist Hayley Campbell searches for answers in the people who make a living by working with the dead. Along the way, she encounters mass fatality investigators, embalmers, and a former executioner who is responsible for ending sixty-two lives. She meets gravediggers who have already dug their own graves, visits a cryonics facility in Michigan, goes for late-night Chinese with a homicide detective, and questions a man whose job it is to make crime scenes disappear.

Through Campbell’s incisive and candid interviews with these people who see death every day, she asks: Why would someone choose this kind of life? Does it change you as a person? And are we missing something vital by letting death remain hidden? A dazzling work of cultural criticism, All the Living and the Dead weaves together reportage with memoir, history, and philosophy, to offer readers a fascinating look into the psychology of Western death.

A deeply compelling exploration of the death industry and the people—morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, executioners—who work in it and what led them there.

We are surrounded by...

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Featured Reviews

If you liked Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty or Stiff by Mary Roach you HAVE to read All the Living and the Dead. This book is segmented into chapters dedicated to a specific part of the death process: be it cleaning a crime scene, embalming, or disaster relief. I couldn't stop turning the pages to learn more about the people in this industry who bring so much life and hope in contrast with what I originally thought. Highly recommend.

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I was absolutely enthralled by this book from the very first page. I’ve always been intrigued by death. The history of how our bodies were handled, the rituals around it, the science of exactly what happens to us postmortem. A book like this could easily become heavy and dark, but Hayley was able to convey these things in an easily digestible way. Her exploration of death was refreshing, informative and thought provoking. Well done!

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As someone who has read a lot of books about death, I already knew I was going to enjoy reading All the Living and the Dead. It hits so many of my areas of interest. If you have read Mary Roach or any Caitlin Doughty. you will enjoy not only the content of this book but also how it is written!. (As other reviews have noted.) Hayley Campbell does an incredible job of making her subject of focus very approachable, which can be very difficult when talking about death. This book offers so much insight into the people involved in the death industry and the deep respect they have for what they do. I would absolutely recommend picking this book up!

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Absolutely excellent. Deserves a spot next to Caitlin Doughty and Carla Valentine. A recommended first purchase for all collections.

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All the Living and the Dead was a super interesting read for anyone curious about the "death industry". Campbell approaches the subject with grace and respect for the dead. She also makes the writing easy to digest and very informative! I first read Mary Roach's "Stiff" to get acquainted with this topic; this book is a great companion to that!

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I’ve always been fascinated with death and Hayley Campbell does a great job keeping my attention. I enjoyed getting glimpses of different professions and what/how they handle their occupations in the death community.

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All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell: This BOOK! If you’re like me and enjoy exploring the darker parts of humanity and what it means to, well, be…then this is for you. Campbell searches out people in the field of death, from the ones you expect (like a Funeral director) to the Unexpected (National Disaster Relief Teams) and just about everything in between. For fans of Caitlin Doughty but more journalistic, you need this in your life.

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This is a really neat book! It is so needed and I highly recommend it!
Once the deceased are actually dead, people go into a frenzy regarding the death and then the rituals needed.
I believe that we could all stand to understand it all a bit better.
"All the Living and the Dead" tells it as it is.
Well done!

Thank you to NetGalley and #St Martin's Press for this ARC and allowing me to provide my own review.

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I don't even know how to explain what a phenomenal read this was. Death, it's all around us. Whether we experienced a loss of a loved one, are addicted to murder shows, read thrillers that tangle it's plot around it, A history full of punishment and death. Images plastered throughout the web. It's literally everywhere. And we are kind of used to it.

But there are people who have dedicated their lives to death. Morticians, embalmers, crime scene cleaners and executioners to just name a few. How do these people look at death? How do they go home at the end of the day and continue to sit down and eat with their families, go to sleep at night and just plain accept all that they have seen and done throughout the day. Are they numb to it? Do they turn it off? Well Hayley Campbell sets out to get those answers. She spends her days with those who do these jobs, accompanying them throughout the day. Diving into their minds and feelings and the roles they play daily . I don't think I will ever look at some of these things the same gain. I have much more respect down those who do these jobs. And honestly in my opinion, some of these people might just be earths angels.

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This is a comprehensive and informative book about the plethora of jobs and processes involved in the death industry. Campbell describes her interviews with decency and respect for the workers, their tasks, and the care the workers provide. Although Campbell started the book long before the COVID-19 pandemic, I appreciate that she included a chapter focusing on how what she learned affected her views on life and on the pandemic.

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A haunting, poignant, and thought-provoking book on the reality of death, All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell is a must-read for the morbidly curious and for those who want to learn more about what it’s like to work behind death's door.

From embalmers to executioners, Journalist Hayley Campbell expertly dispels all myths I once believed surrounding death, getting down to the nitty-gritty and doing so with respect and brutal honesty. You definitely can't go wrong with this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for sending me an e-arc in exchange for my honest review!

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All the Living and the Dead is an amazing book. As I get older, sign up for Medicare and begin to face my own mortality in a more serious way, I have looked for books to help with this process. There is not a lot out there, and I hesitated before requesting this book from Netgalley, but Hayley Campbell has written about death and the many different people associated with it so well that I found the book informative and beautiful.

The author wrote the book because she wondered how people who have made death their work manage it on a daily basis.

“If the reason we’re outsourcing this burden is because it’s too much for us, how do they deal with it?”

Campbell interviews many different people associated with death - a funeral director, the director of anatomical services at Mayo Clinic, an embalmer, a crime scene cleaner, a death mask maker, an executioner, anatomic pathology technologist, bereavement midwife, gravediggers, crematorium operator, and even people at a cryonics institute. I learned that there are many more people involved with death than I ever thought, and with their varied viewpoints, I also learned that it's far more than just a job to many of them. The care and respect they feel and show in their work is evident, even if it's work that most people will never see and may not be appreciated. There are a few morbid details, but Campbell gets involved in some of these details, such as dressing a corpse, handling a brain during an autopsy, and raking remains from the crematorium. This helps to make them seem just a little less morbid.

The book never struck me as macabre or sensationalizing death, but I thought it was written with a fine balance between empathy and clinically explained details. I highly recommend Hayley Campbell and this book as a compassionate and honest way to read about death, ease your fears, and face mortality.

"The world is full of people telling you how to feel about death and dead bodies, and I don't want to be one of them - I don't want to tell you how to feel about anything, I only want you to think about it."

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.

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I really liked that the author went and interviewed, found people to talk about their work with the dead. I found it very insightful.
I especially liked the part of the bereavement midwife, what a great innovation and one that is sorely needed.
The writing was plain and not too technical. The author went and watched each person work and asked a lot of good questions in regards to what it was that they did.
She covered just about everything from donating your body to science, freezing your body, cremation, and more.
The only part I was a bit concerned with was that she kept mentioning how she had no fear of death, wasn't grossed out by it,,,,then she saw the baby slip under the water....then the reader got to hear about that baby ad nausem.

A good book about death occupations.

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All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

A big thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for this ARC! Swipe to see the synopsis.

This book was a spectacular work of journalism with only minor complaints. The big questions in this book that were answered - 1) what do you do? 2) why do you do it? And 3) how do you do it? Campbell was thorough in her investigation and provided her sources. (Hello TBR pile). She organized her thoughts and this book in a way that made sense. She let the people who worked in the death industries do the talking with minimal interference from her.

My biggest complaints surrounded around the treatment of the executioner. For the first time, it felt like Campbell had an idea of how she wanted him to answer, and she wasn’t satisfied with the answers provided from him. With all the other characters, the author seemed unbiased and nonjudgmental, but the whole tone shifted when she wrote about the executioner. I have so many questions about this tone shift.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who loved Stiff or similar books. I googled and investigated so many things in this book (looking at you death masks and crime scene cleanups). I closed the book feeling like I had learned. This one comes out in August, and I hope you all read it!

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From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work.

A well-documented book about Death. The people who deal with death, such as morticians, detectives, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, and the men who carry out executions.

Through interviews with these people, Ms. Campbell tells their stories. Why do they choose to work in such a grim and sad world? But death is part of life and thank goodness we have these people.

I wanted to be a mortician so I can understand her interest in the field. But I wonder too if it changes them in a fundamental way? We are fascinated with death in the Western world. But also terrified of it.

I enjoyed reading about all of these people and it was also very informative.

Good Job!

NetGalley/ August 16, 2022, St. Martin’s Press

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This was an unexpectedly moving book, thoughtful, candid and insightful. I’ve not been so gripped by this type of non-fiction since I read The Trauma Cleaner.

There are so many aspects in the industry of death and those who deal with it that I would never have imagined. There’s a major company who handles the “clean up” after massive disasters such as plane and train crashes, earthquakes, the Grenfell tower fire; there’s an artist who makes busts from death masks, preferably while they’re still warm in order to keep their likeness close to life; there are midwives who deal exclusively with stillbirths and pre-term deaths (I.e. the death of an underdeveloped fetus) — a chapter that had me in tears a couple of times.

I love Campbell’s writing style. She’s honest, matter of fact, embellishing only where appropriate. She puts herself into the stories and is honest about how she feels, but always lets the situation and the interviewees speak for themselves, whether it be the disaffected loudmouth who cleans up crime scene blood and gore for a living, or the friendly executioner who felt no moral responsibility for the hundreds of lives he’d taken over the decades, before dying of Covid last year.

It’s an excellent book, at times bizarre and funny, but each chapter is a new lesson that made me feel a little more informed about the death trade

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Thanks Netgalley for allowing me to read this book. This book takes readers on a journey focusing on death and the individuals who deal with it. This book was very insightful.

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It probably says something about me that I took a break from a rather sad book about race in the US, saw an invitation from Netgalley to read this book, and thought, yes, that would give me a change of pace. But a change of pace it was.

Hayley Campbell provides a fairly comprehensive look at the industry around death--about the behind-the-scenes workers most of us don't give much thought to: the crime scene cleaner, the funeral director, the grave digger, the man in charge of cadaver donations at a well-known research hospital. Most of the stories she relates are those of highly compassionate people and some truly touching stories. Just like we appreciate the firefighters or ambulance drivers and EMTs, we should tip our hats to people who so often work without any thanks.

Ms. Campbell is an outstanding writer and journalist and in All the Living and The Dead, she has created a riveting account of who takes care of us after death has claimed us.

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If you have a morbid side (like me), you'll love Hayley Campbell's All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work. I've always been fascinated by this topic but have never read anything quite as original as this.

Each chapter focuses on someone who has a key role in death. This not includes the professions you typically think of (like funeral directors, embalmers, crematorium operators and gravediggers), but also people who work quietly behind the scenes (like crime scene cleaners) doing something no one else wants to (or has the stomach) to do. Campbell follows these people as they do their unheralded work, writing absolutely fascinating accounts of why each person is in their profession. Some accounts are truly heartbreaking, such as the one of the bereavement midwife.

I loved this book and found myself enthralled with each chapter. All the Living and the Dead takes people right into the death industry, wondering why we allow death to remain so hidden.


This book's expected publication date is August 16, 2022.

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4.5 rounded up

This is such an insightful look into careers most of us will never experience. It highlights and explores death in such a humble way. I really enjoyed this book, but it’s also quite heavy and at times emotional.

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All the Living and the Dead is an engaging read. It honors death and humanity and allows the reader an in depth look at death from an industry in its many forms to the people who encounter it every day; and it is done with the humility, respect, and truth.

The books cover topics and asks questions though expert interviews and examples of history, from embalmers, investigators, professors, former executioners, gravediggers, scientists, detectives, cleaners and so many more.

I loved how the author asked questions that gave a more inclusive and often overlooked aspects of death, how it is processed and how it effects everyone (not just the immediate family of the deceased). The way these stories are told is real, true, and in a respectful way. The author takes the time to allow the reader to feel the humanity, the emotions and the rawness of the topic but also gives the reader a true positive understanding and greater respect for death and its workers.

There is so much heart within these pages, it makes the topic accessible and engaging. I received an ARC via Netgalley and St. Martin's Press and I am leaving an honest review.

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I really enjoyed learning about the people who work with the dead and handle their bodies. Each chapter focuses on someone who has a key role in death. It had never occurred to me how many occupations there are in the death industry.
If you have read Mary Roach or any Caitlin Doughty I think you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for honest review.

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Where are all my morbid people at?

Hayley Campbell covers so much in All the Living and the Dead, and while it’s just under 300 pages, I took my time reading this and letting it all soak in.

She takes us on the front lines with her, observing Mayo Clinic studies, embalmings, autopsies, discussing crime scene cleaning with a top professional, and visiting crematories and funeral homes and more. So much time and research went into this and at times took a mental and physical toll on her. She was so informative yet empathetic, delicate and kind with her words, and her writing felt so genuine.

I read a lot of books about death, but I still walked away from this learning so much and will definitely reread this in the future. If you love Caitlin Doughty’s work, All The Living and the Dead is a must-read that I highly HIGHLY recommend! Thanks to St.Martin’s Press, NetGalley and Hayley Campbell for my eARC. All the Living and the Dead will be available August 16th, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to remind you! 🖤

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In a society that sees death as a dirty little secret to be avoided at all costs, Hayley Campbell looks at it right in the face. This book is not about what will come next but about the most pedestrian aspects of dying. What will happen to our bodies, and who are the people who will be there for us. Morticians, cleaners and pathologists, the people who dig up the graves or those who bring dead babies into the world. Did you know that there are companies specialized in mass disasters? Like airplane crashes or tsunamis? How come I’d never thought of that? How did Campbell think to look? The book is very well researched, but it’s written in a way that makes her journey into death approachable. She makes you feel like you’re right there. She’s not squeamish and I’m not sure all readers will be able to get through all the material here. For example, she describes a postmortem in all its gory detail, which I found fascinating but probably would not have been able to stomach myself. But what surprised me the most is that a book that deals with decomposition, embalming, autopsies or executions, could be so poignant and touching. The author writes from a place of vulnerability, curiosity and respect, calling attention to a society that rightfully cheered for first responders during the worst pandemic in a century, but somehow never thought of the people dealing with the many, many dead bodies. She also has a sense of humor, so this is not a depressing read. Lastly, I try to never judge a book by its cover but this must be the most gorgeous one I’ve seen in a while. Five stars!
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#St. Martin's Press!

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If you were ever curious about death and the people that work with the dead, All the Living and the Dead is a must read. It contains a behind the scenes look at the people whose vocations revolve around death on a daily basis. From funeral directors, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, grave diggers, and even cremators. There is something for everyone. But my personal favorites were the embalmer and the cremator. Totally gross, but extremely interesting.

All the Living and the Dead is not a book to read by the faint of heart as it does contain a number of gruesome details for each vocation. Author, Campbell had the distinct pleasure of not only interviewing the people involved, but also having a hands on experience with some of the interviewees. Campbell deftly describes the gory details and at the same time expertly manages to add a human element to an otherwise inhuman narrative.

Exceptionally and beautifully written. Five amazing stars.

I received a digital ARC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.

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A wealth of provocative essays on death and dying. Especially enlightening for those who are interested in understanding the nuances and insights sparked by an inquiry into death.

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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher St. Martin's Press for an advance copy of this book on living, dying, what comes after and the people involved.

Living is hard, dying is easy. Though as a reader of many fiction and nonfiction books I have read about many last moments that I wouldn't consider easy. However I have never read a book that seems so for these times, a post- pandemic world where sticking heads in the sand like ostriches seems to be de rigueur. And death no matter how we try to fight it, exercise and surgically fight it, will come for us all. So understanding the world of death and what comes of it I think is something that we should start to learn. I can't think of a better place to start then with writer and journalist Hayley Campbell's All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work. I can't remember a book that stayed with me so much well after I finished it, nor one I want to recommend to highly.

The book begins with the author ruminating on death, from looking at sketches in her father's, the comic artist Eddie Campbell, of bodies and murder foul, to the death of a good friend at a young age, and being at a loss of what to feel and what was being shown. From there each chapter focuses on different stages of the corpses we all leave behind after dying, from donating a body to science at the Mayo clinic, to crematoriums and morticians making the body look presentable. Freezers with frozen heads, to maybe return to life, and an American executioner who is as detached, odd and yet very personable, something that I did not every think I would say. The profiles are all different even though they focus on people who don't shy away from the inevitable, though they might have different emotional shields to keep their souls strong.

Many of the profiles, stand out in this informative and beautifully written book. The chapter on the bereavement midwife is the one that got to me most, I couldn't read this chapter without tears and yet this woman does so much, handles so much, and has helped more people than I ever will. Also the one on the funeral director who at the height of AIDS would let in the partners and loved ones of people who the families wouldn't want to acknowledge to see the person they loved one last time. The grave digger who dug is mother's grave. This is a book that tries to make the unfathomable clearer, to take out the sting of death and make it something well not natural or even mundane, but something that just is.

Death, it is sung, don't have no mercy, but many people working to take care of us after death do. The subject might be grim, but this book really is a celebration of life, what it can be, and what we as a people have done to make it such a taboo, even among families facing end of life care. When all you see on social media is the worst of humans it is reassuring to know that their are people, who still think that life, and the shell in which it once resided are worthy of respect, care and love. I can't wait to read more by Ms. Campbell. A phenomenal piece of writing.

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Warning: If you have a queasy stomach and don't like reading about dead bodies, body fluids, bodies being taken apart, etc.... DO NOT READ. If you do, proceed.

As a forensic science student, I loved this book. Hayley Campbell interviews several people who work in the death field including a former executioner at a prison and an owner of a crime scene clean-up company. She interviews them with one major question "Why did you choose this career?" and the answers she received surprised me. I loved this book and I absolutely loved her writing style. There was never a dull moment and I was completely engrossed.

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity for reading this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I found this book grotesque at times, but I was also absolutely fascinated. My favorite part of this book was reading about the embalmers! What a tough job. I enjoyed learning about what happens to our bodies at each stage of death. Dying. Just passed. 12 hours later. 1 month later. Etc.

I also enjoyed learning ab0out the different professions dealing with death. Campbell does a fantastic job highlighting all of them. Again, my favorite was the embalmers. The training and skill it must take to do that job, wow! Not for the faint of heart.

Highly recommended book. A lot to learn and appreciate to make death less of a scary subject.

Thanks to Netgalley, Hayley Campbell and St Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Available: 8/16/22

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A study in our Western responses to death as well as all of the disciplines who value the cadaver as a tool to help the living and/or determine findings about the untimely dead. There are a number of books dedicated to the corpse, but this is unique among them as it focuses on our reactions to death and its ancillary businesses as well as how their jobs have impacted those who work with the dead.
I requested and received a free e-book copy from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. Thank you!

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All The Living and the Dead, is a nonfiction book that dives into different jobs that deal with the dead. It was beautifully written, gruesome, and fascinating.

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This book will absolutely be everything to anyone who is interested in the topic of death. The writing was just so good and it made me devour the book in a few days. I loved all the glimpses at jobs that deal with death. It was gripping as well as respectful and empathetic. Great read.

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All the Living and the Dead, by journalist Hayley Campbell explores death via a dozen people who work in its often-unwitnessed nooks and crannies: morticians, executioners, crime scene cleaners, embalmers, and others, covering a range from the mundanely familiar (funeral homes) to the more far-flung (cryogenics). Though I’d argue its first half is stronger than its second, the collection of essays is well-written throughout and often moving. It’s also, given its subject matter and the level of detail Campbell goes into in describing elements of that subject, possibly not for everyone. If detailed descriptions of corpses, crime scene residue, or dead babies, you probably want to think about picking this book up. If this last sentence already disturbed you, you definitely want to think about it. But for those for whom the details are not a deal-breaker, I highly recommend it.

Campbell begins by offering a bit of personal history on how she has been fascinated with death and immune to its sometimes-gory details since she was a child and her dad, well known comic book artist Eddie Campbell, was working on From Hell, a graphic novel about Jack the Ripper written by Alan Moore. Emphasis in this case on the graphic, as her dad had no qualms about Hayley (under ten), “standing on tiptoes to study the crime scenes that were pinned to my dad’s drawing board . . . there they were, the disemboweled women, the flesh torn from their faces and thighs …” When her dad bought a kidney from the local butcher, she sat beside him to draw it as well, “only mine was more honest: it included the gather cloud of flies.” “Captivated” by death, she was also frustrated by the ways she was taught it “was taboo and something to fear,” a frustration that continued on into adulthood. She “wanted to know whether we are cheating ourselves out of some fundamental human knowledge by … living in this manufactured state of denial … I wanted to shrink the size of death to something I could hold, something I could handle … to the size the something human.” To do Campbell did what came naturally to her as a journalist — set out to do some reportage via interviews and on-site observation. But she also tells us toward the end of the introduction that “there is a false security in believing that as a journalist you can stand there and report and be the interloper in all situations, unaffected, the detached observer. I thought I was invulnerable; I was not.” A nice tease to set the reader up from wondering when that shoe would drop.

From there it’s onto the separate essays on the jobs noted above, with Campbell often fully immersing herself in the job or at least the environment. The details are, well, detailed, and so those who find the human body, particularly the human body in stages of decay, in pieces, or (you may want to skip this part) scattered about an area or across a wall, this book again may not be for you. I should also note that these descriptions do sometimes involve children (it is in fact a baby prepared for autopsy that levels that emotional blow she mentions in the intro). None of the details are gratuitous or there for shock value; Campbell is never anything but clear-eyed and measured, nor does she reach for hyperbole or sensationalism. Such details are simply Campbell’s keen-eyed observation of what she is witness to and given one of the points of the book is to not obscure death’s reality, glossing over the details would defeat at least some of the book’s purpose and premise.

Many of the essays are fascinating (again, not morbidly so) and informative. If you ever wondered what was actually involved in the actualities, the mechanics, of death-centered actions — embalming, preparing a body for viewing, identifying a body and informing the family, what happens to donated bodies, etc. — then Campbell mostly has you covered. The people she interviews are equally interesting and often moving in their desire to “do the good and right thing,” as Campbell puts it.

This includes Mark Oliver, who works for Kenyon, a company that takes over for companies in the aftermath of a disaster (a plane or train crash, a bombed or fired building, etc.) and deals with everything that follows: press releases, scrubbing the website of unfortunate echoes of the disaster, attaching liaison officers to family members, flying them to the disaster site, organizing memorials, collecting, distributing, and storing personal effects, and lots, lots more. Oliver, even before working at Kenyon, had spent years in crisis areas helping identify bodies (sometimes having to exhume them from mass graves) after war atrocities, the tsunami I Sri Lanka (and elsewhere), plane crashes, and more. While again, the detail of the work itself are compelling, Campbell often goes beyond, asking larger questions such as “If closure is an unattainable point of reckoning, what does the presence of a body add?”

Time and again Campbell finds the personal, the intimate, the moving moment, as with the funeral director who during the AIDs crisis, “while funeral homes across the country were refusing to take the bodies at all … would stay after hours and sneak in the people who had loved them.” Or in the detail that “parents of autopsied babies” refer to the incision as “’a scar’ — implying healing.” Perhaps the only interviewee who resists such humanizing is the cleaner, who posts before and after pictures of murder/suicide sites on his Instagram and who no longer meets much with clients because, as he says, “I’m not sympathetic to the customer any more … They just disgust me … I’m not here to be your friend, I’m not here to be your shrink … I’m your janitor, you know?”

The writing is strong throughout, always clear, sometimes lyrical, shifting smoothly between reportage and a more memoiristic style, where Campbell opens up her interior thoughts and feelings, which span a wide spectrum depending on the situation. She also leavens some of the grimness with some light but respectful humor (she’s not as out and out funny – nor does she appear to be trying to be – as Mary Roach, whose Stiff has some overlap and is also highly recommended).

As is often the case with collections, the strength varies from piece to piece. I’d say the first half of the book holds the strongest essays. It wasn’t until we got to the essay on executions that I felt I wanted more details than I was giving and several of the latter essays felt a bit thin. But really, while noticeable, these were mild quibbles. Overall, the collection is quite strong and is capped off by an excellent list of resources at the end (I can always tell a good non-fiction work by how much of the notes and bibliography I highlight in addition to the text). If you feel you can stomach — physically or emotionally — the precise, vivid descriptions, then All the Living and the Dead is an easy and enthusiastic recommendation.

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It's probably weird to say that I found this book comforting. Death is weird. Let's be honest. All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Cambell is the story of what happens when we die. Interviews with people who deal with death on a day to day basis, from embalmers to executioners, almost all scenarios are covered.

It's an open and honest way at looking at something that we all experience but we are never able to discuss.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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I have been dealing with a lot of death within my family in the past couple of years. This book really helped me understand what everyone did for my family during the death. This book was excellently written, and it was very easy to follow. I really can't wait to read more for Hayley Campbell.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for letting give my honest review

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All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell is by far the best book I have read on this particular subject: Individuals who work with death for a living. As someone who has always wanted to work with the dead for a living, this book was incredibly fascinating. Not only is it well-researched, but I learned something new within each chapter.
I love the formatting of this book as it was easy to read. Hayley Campbell's writing style is personal, descriptive, and just absolutely wonderful. I nearly cried with how beautiful some descriptions were. She makes you feel comfortable, it feels as if you're listening to a friend or loved one talk about the topic of death, and not just the mundane clinical stuff, there is meaning and feeling in her words. You can tell she has a passion for writing and the subject of death.
I think if you have a fear of death or are generally interested in the subject, you will devour this book and it will give you a more meaningful and in-depth prespective on death.
This book will forever be a favorite and I will be purchasing a finished copy and reccomending it to everyone!
Thank you NetGalley for the eARC and Hayley Campbell for this incredible work of art. Absolutely beautiful!

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A fascinating, memorable, incisive look at death and the "death industry." Campbell explores aspects of death I'd. not really contemplated (the grave diggers) as well as the more obvious (she's present for an autopsy). Thanks t0 Netgalley for the ARC. I learned a great deal from this sensitive and informative volume.

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Are you a fan of "Bones", or "Dr. G"? If so, this is definitely a book you should read. This is a book about how different professions handle the dead. From a Mass Fatality Investigator to an Embalmer, this is a fascinating look at Death.

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I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I expected it to be about a few people in the death industry and their basic jobs, but it turned out to be so much more. There were the jobs that usually come to mind when you think of the industry, such as embalmer and funeral director, but then there were jobs I either didn't know about or never would have thought of, such as the death mask maker and bereavement midwife. There is so much more that goes into dying that people don't realize, and so many people that work in that field that you never hear about. Many of these people never get thanks for their jobs or recognition for what they do, but they are still a vital and important part of the death process. I was hoping for a chapter about mummification, as I live right by the only modern mummification center outside of Egypt, but it wasn't to be. I was also quite touched by the author's reaction to part of what she saw. She went it totally prepared to not have any emotional reaction to one thing, only to be deeply affected by something else. It just shows that even though we think we are prepared for any inevitability, we're not.

It's funny; I actually finished this on the day I drove to Idaho for my uncle's funeral. While death is sad and impacts us in different ways, I still think it's important to talk about. We like to pretend that it will never happen, that it's some dirty secret that can't be spoken of. But death is the most natural thing in the world. We'll all die someday. Talking about it helps us come to terms with that fact, and being prepared for it helps us and those we'll leave behind.

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Thank you Netgalley for this audio edition of All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell.

If you enjoyed Stiff by Mary Roach, or Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, you will also love this one. It's just as informative, enjoyable, and downright entertaining considering the content matter.

Even though death is one of those inevitable things that will happen to all of us someday, it's often tiptoed around, especially in our modern polite society. Hayley Campbell, through many interviews and hands on experiences, dive into multiple aspects of death. From the reverent cultural practices, to the grimy ugly parts of it. She covers things like tragic accidents and how the government handles them, the death penalty and the people who have to carry the weight of executioner, and body prep after a loved one has passed.

Listen, I made the mistake of listening to this while I was eating, and that was a mistake. If you get queasy, approach with caution. But, talk about a well written and vastly covered book that never once gets dry. Campbell keeps this incredibly human, full of humor, personality, and stark naked (sometimes literally) truths about death and dying. I learned a ton.

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Writer and journalist Hayley Campbell grew up in a home unafraid of death. She describes experiencing the first dead person, trying to comprehend someone who was there yet wasn't. In All the Living and the Dead she insightfully and respectfully explores the physiology of death and how Westerners view it psychologically. I have always had a fascination with anatomy and forensics so found this book to be incredibly insightful and informative. The amount of information I learned is remarkable!

In each chapter Campbell matter-of-factly yet beautifully describes the role of specific people in a death-related occupation and records her interviews with them and observations. She makes it clear that we grieve differently and reminds us that no one can tell those affected what they can or cannot do, such as viewing parts of a loved one's body, a dead child or a drowning victim. Many descriptions are graphic and can be difficult to read (I shed tears) as these are real people, not fictional characters. How do people work in these jobs and cope with what they see/smell/touch? This side is explored as well.

Included in the occupations are some most of us are aware of but take for granted such as funeral directors, executioners and detectives. But do we really know what is involved behind the scenes such as those who create natural-looking death masks, clean up gory scenes or work with grieving parents on bereavement wards? I had not really thought about the importance of making hospital evidence such as plasters or compression socks disappear. Do we really know how a body is embalmed, how proteins are snapped or facial parts sewn together? "Seeing the body is a signpost, a mark on the trail of grief." Though it can be grotesque, until one sees the remains there is always a sliver of hope. It should be up to the loved one what he or she needs to see/not see.

Amongst many, many things I learned includes Anatomage, how space is made in sockets for joints, what happens to donor pieces, how bodies and parts are prepared for optimal use by students, what happens after a disaster (what companies do so you don't have to such as dealing with media, crisis lines, personal effects,), how one can contact a company to have the gore quickly and thoroughly cleaned up, the horror of seeing the aftermath, machines which decide which is the killing button pressed at an execution, the role of an anatomical pathology technologist, working with cold versus warm dead bodies. bereavement wards, what the last thing to burn is in cremation, cryonics and how a grave is dug. The emotional burden on people in these crucial occupations is discussed, too. I like that Campbell is so candid about her feelings and thoughts after she saw what she did.

Those fascinated by the logistics, physiology and emotional aspects of death ought to read this book. However, it is very graphic and therefore not for everyone. It may understandably be triggering for some.

My sincere thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this challenging yet important book about a topic we must all face at some point. Stellar in every way.

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This was a really amazing read.

If you have read [and loved] Stiff by Mary Roach, this is a perfect companion to that [also] amazing book.

While trying to figure out just how to review this, I saw another review by a reader and it simply said [paraphrasing here] "Don't read reviews, just read the book" and I have to agree. This is a book that is best going in "blind". To let it fully play out without any previous knowledge or anyone else's preconceived notions about death and dying and what they TRULY thought about this book [and the author]. One needs to experience this without all that baggage, without anyone else's opinions ringing in their ears [including mine].

I will say I highly recommend this book - if you have every wondered about death and dying and those who are there when it happens and in the aftermath, then this book is for you. Once I started reading it, I absolutely didn't want to stop [in fact, making myself move on to other reads was supremely difficult, I was just swept in completely] and I wish it could have been just a little bit longer. ;-)

I was lucky to also receive the audiobook for this and WOW. I don't always love when an author chooses to narrate their own books. Quite often, they are just not a good narrator and you find that it completely ruins the book experience that you might have otherwise loved.
Thankfully [ ;-) ], this was not the case here. In fact, I would listen to anything this author reads [yes, she is that good]. The emotions she felt at different times in this journey come through in many different ways and I will say that there were several moments where I was crying [as I imagine she had been at the time]. I highly recommend listening to this audiobook!!! ♥

Thank you to NetGalley, Haley Campbell [also the narrator], St. Martin's Press and Macmillan Audio for providing both the book and audiobook ARCS in exchange for an honest review.

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I've always been fascinated with death. As a result, I've read my fair share of books about the death industry. But one book I've never come across is one that dealt with not only the death-related jobs we don't consider that often but with the people behind the jobs. In All the Living and the Dead, Hayley Campbell introduces us to both, and it was one of the most heartwrenching and well-written books I've read in a long time.

Campbell doesn't just introduce us to the jobs and the people, she tries to get inside their heads and understand why they do the jobs they do and how they deal with the trauma they face every day. Campbell puts faces to the invisible hands that hold our bodies after death: gravediggers, crime scene cleaners, executioners, bereavement midwives, and a company that deals with the cleanup and organization after natural disasters and plane crashes. Although these people have some of the most gruesome jobs in the world, they seem to have great outlooks--all of the people she interviewed wanted to show care and gentleness to people at the very last step of their lives; wanted to make sure things were done right and the bodies were respected. I found myself tearing up while reading because along with the facts there was just so much heart behind not just the workers and their intentions, but Campbell as well. Campbell handled each person and their story beautifully and with empathy, and she was candid about her own feelings, too.

This book is truly one of a kind, and I enjoyed reading every bit of it. It also really got me thinking about what I want to be done with my body when I die, and that's something that a lot of people are hesitant to think about. If this book will teach us anything, it is to be open to thinking about difficult things.

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(4.5 stars rounded up to a 5)

All the Living and the Dead is a non-fiction book by journalist Hayley Campbell. The ebook version is 288 pages. I listened to the audiobook, which clocks in at just under nine hours and is narrated by the author.

The extended title of the book is a pretty apt description of what it entails: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work. The author interviews various people in that spectrum, including mass fatality investigators, embalmers, former executioners, gravediggers, cryonics facility operators, crime scene cleaners, bereavement midwives, and homicide detectives.

This book was fascinating, and I learned a lot. I have been part of Death Positive DC, a group that promotes conversations about death, so this book was right up my alley. I felt so many emotions while reading this; I laughed out loud quite a few times, but there are also moments that I felt morose or sad. I've already preordered a finished copy for my bookshelf. This is one of those rare moments where the US cover is better than the UK cover!

This would be a great book for fans of Caitlin Doughty or Mary Roach. Additionally, if you're in the Death Café scene, this should absolutely be your next book club read. It mainly focuses on the Western side of how we deal with death, though there are a few brief mentions of what some other cultures do.

Special thanks to Macmillan, Macmillan Audio, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley for providing an audio galley of this book for me to review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

All the Living and the Dead releases on Tuesday, August 16th, 2022.

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An eye-opening and fascinating read for curious and morbidly curious people alike, All the Living and the Dead follows journalist Hayley Campbell's journey to connect with people who work closely with death. She meets so many people with unique professions - some of these people include: a bereavement midwife, a cryonics scientist, the owner of a crime scene cleanup business, a death mask maker, a crematorium operator, the head of the Mayo Clinic department that receives bodies "donated to science," a gravedigger, an anatomical pathology technician, and, most interestingly, a real, modern-day executioner who worked in Virginia's state prisons.

Campbell brings together an excellent lineup of people who not only have fascinating stories, but also bring genuinely deep, profound, and beautiful reflections of how their professions have impacted their outlook on life. She is consistently struck by the little things that people bring to their jobs that show respect for the dead - even though few people, if anyone, would even recognize those actions. Moreover, she discovers the boundaries that some people refuse to cross - like an autopsy technician who refuses to read suicide notes of self-inflicted death cases - finding that death is not really something that one can be desensitized to, no matter how often you encounter it.

Throughout, Campbell reflects on her own experience of learning about, accepting, and confronting death as she meets more and more people who have made this their life's work. In experiencing their professions, she becomes one of them - someone who has seen far more death than the average person, and will always be haunted by some of the things she has witnessed. I found her writing to be compelling, relatable, insightful, and beautiful.

Overall, this was an excellent read for fans of Caitlin Doughty and Mary Roach, or anyone interested in connecting more with a part of life that we rarely spend time thinking about. Thank you to the publisher and Macmillan Audio for the ARC via Netgalley.

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Hayley Campbell writes an in-depth cross-section of people who have devoted their careers to working in the death industries. She includes all the entries you might expect: funeral director, embalmer, crime scene cleaner, executioner; but she also opens the reader's eyes to such vocations as anatomical pathology technologist, disaster victim identification, and bereavement midwife. Written with professional skill and a personal tone, each subject is portrayed with respect and curiosity and determination, a gentle but insistent desire to unfold and understand. Campbell herself holds a lifelong fascination with death, and her unflinching gaze at its employees and their various works shows the value of opening our eyes to its obscurities. The cumulative impression of this collection is an astonishing humility in the face of the deep vein of compassion running through almost every professional featured. The author refuses to avoid the unsettling or disturbing observations, so while this book is not always a comfortable read, over and over again, Hayley Campbell proves the value of examining 'All the Living and the Dead.'

Many thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the eARC.

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Hayley Campbell highlights different professionals that work in fields related to death in All the Living and the Dead. It is a pretty enlightening collection, where some jobs I had not thought about were discussed as well as some more familiar death-related fields. Some of the more familiar ones include individuals who work in anatomy labs with medical schools, morticians, and crime scene cleaners. Some fascinating chapters were about individuals working as mass casualty investigators and state executioners. I also found out about an occupation I had not heard of before- midwives who specialize in bereavement. The expectation is they are involved in deliveries of stillborns and children who are expected to live only a short time out of the womb. Talk about a field requiring a special person to work and thrive in. Death is a topic that people are fascinated by, and Campbell was able to provide insight and empathy for individuals working in difficult fields. I can imagine fans of Caitlin Doughty's work will enjoy this book (there is some overlap in content).

Thanks to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for honest review.

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This captivating nonfiction book explores the industry of death and all the people who make it possible. From embalmers to crime scene cleaners to gravediggers, Campbell takes us through all the details no one wants to think about. Let’s face it, most people don’t want to think about death at all, let alone all the logistics and behind the scenes actions that need to take place when a person dies. We get an inside look into the professionals behind the death industry and what their work means to them. She even interviews a death mask sculptor and an executioner.

The book is well written and full of Campbell’s personal insights, which I found to be memorable. The most powerful section in my opinion, was the visit with a midwife who specializes in stillborns and babies who will soon die. It was excruciating to read, but it revealed an incredibly important role that goes unfulfilled in most communities. It takes a very special person to help grieving parents go through the process and Campbell did a wonderful job highlighting this work with compassion and care.

Unfortunately, the scope of the book is limited in that Campbell focused her research and experience in America and Britian only. I would have loved to see a more diverse look at death from all over the world, but I understand the difficulty in carrying that out.

Overall, this is such a compelling piece of journalism and one of my favorite books of the year. If you can handle the subject matter highly, I recommend reading. You will come away with a new perspective on death and appreciation for those who work to ensure our dignified passage.

Thank you @stmartinspress @netgalley and @hayleycampbelly for the opportunity to read this one!

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A thoughtful deep dive into the world of death.We are introduced to people who handle the dead,we learn about the history of how bodies wer handled in past history to present times.A really interesting informative read.#netgalley #st.Martins

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In present day America we hide the dead. It takes a surprising assortment of people to make that happen. Hayley Campbell decided to find out about some of them and it has resulted in this excellent book. Her research wasn't limited to interviews. It included observation and some participation which adds depth to her narrative. The interviewed are as varied as the jobs. There are the obvious funeral directors, embalmers, assistant medical examiners. And the seldom seen gravediggers and crematory worker. Some work is more unusual, like dealing with the bodies donated for scientific study or those killed in disasters like airplane crashes. A friend of mine from seventh grade to graduation wanted to be a mortician. I don't remember her ever explaining why, but she was quietly steadfast about it, unlike several of the people in this book who never set out to do what they do. Others followed their fathers, some moved sideways from caring for the living to caring for the dead. They do their jobs with competence and great respect for the bodies and those who loved and cared for them. And, in turn, they are very deserving of our respect as is Hayley Campbell for introducing us to them. I received an advanced digital copy of this book compliments of St. Martin's and NetGalley.

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As a fan of Mary Roach (Stiff) and Caitlin Doughty (Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs) this was an easy choice when I saw that the ARC was available. I wasn't disappointed. My curiosity about the death industry started at a very early age due to several pathologists in the family. They would have enjoyed this book. From morticians, crime scene cleaners, disaster investigators and coroners to bodies donated to science for anatomy classes and so much in between. this book was hard to put down and I've added it to my best read list of 2022. It's amazing.
My thanks to the publisher St. Martin's and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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A thoughtful and personal look at death and how we the living make sense of the mortal coils the dead leave behind. It is the author's own fascination with this topic that drives the book and offers a thoughtful through-line between the chapters. It's a book that fits well alongside Mary Roach's "Stiff" and Caitlyn Doughty's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" as a book that simultaneously talks about dead bodies but also about the living who work with them in all different capacities. I really enjoyed this one.

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The review is located here. Please enjoy!

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This was a fascinating to read, when I read the description I was curious so I wanted to read this book. When I got into it I was glad I was able to read this book. It was informative and I could tell that Hayley Campbell researched the topic and was written really well. I'm excited to read more from Hayley Campbell as I really enjoyed reading this.

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It is great to see so much new content coming out surrounding the topic of death, dying, and the industry of death in particular. I found the audiobook to be entertaining as well as informative in a way that was unique and perspective driven. You do have to be in the right headspace to want to explore these sorts of things to even pick up a book on this topic. Given the option between the audiobook and the physical book, I would highly recommend the audiobook as the author does an amazing job of telling her own firsthand account of what she has seen and learned. This is a great addiction to any library or bookstore.

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5 fascinating stars
“I didn’t fear death, I was captivated by it.”

“We are surrounded by death. It is in our news, our novels, our video games…It is in our nursery rhymes, our museums, our movies about beautiful murdered women… Death is everywhere, but it’s veiled, or it’s fiction. Just like in video games, the bodies disappear. But the bodies have to go somewhere.”

Hayley Campbell was interested in the details of death at a very young age. Trained as a journalist, she delves into people who work in the ‘death industry’ and make our lives easier. All the Living and the Dead is very readable (limited medical terms) and well organized. Her writing is clear and vivid (but not too vivid! ; - ) Chapters cover the jobs of Funeral Director, Crime Scene Cleaner, Disaster Victim Identifiers, Embalmers, Executioners, Grave diggers, Crematorium Operators, Pathologists and more. A bit gruesome in a few spots like the autopsy section, (skim or skip over if you need to, the book is very worth your time), it is tastefully written, always respectful of the dead and the people who work with them, helping us manage our minds and hearts.

Campbell’s thoroughly researched stories are both unique and interesting. She always brings personal elements into the narrative. This talented writer pleads for families to have choices in viewing victim’s remains and in how they grieve loved ones. The end of the book contains notes and sources, including further reading broken down into helpful categories. An index is included.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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A Sensitive Look At the Death Industry

Death is a frightening subject for many people. Most of the time we’d rather not look at what happens after we die. However, there are people whose job it is to deal with the dead. From embalmers to pathologists, homicide detectives and others. These people face death every day. This book is about them.

The book is very well researched. The author interviewed many people in the death industry and found they have as many and varied thoughts about death as the rest of us. From gravediggers who fear the cemetery at night to a crematory worker who won’t dress a cadaver because it is too personal, these are real people whose job it is to see the rest of us to a comfortable resting place.

I hadn’t thought much about the death industry until I read this book. I knew about homicide detectives, coroners and pathologists from a fascination with murder mysteries, but this was real. The author did an excellent job of bringing the other people, like embalmers and executioners to life. If you’re fascinated by what happens to bodies after death, this is an excellent book.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.

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Hayley Campbell has written a book that everyone ought to read.
It is about death and how humans traverse that time from death to grave.
Not the families although they are part of the story, but rather those people who care for us after we die. The undertaker, the EMT, the Nurses, The grave diggers, the reconstructors , the Coroners, The Detectives, The crematorium operator. the Disaster specialists.
It is all so well written as she interviews these people in their place of work. How much empathy these people have for the body they are caring for.
It also a thought provoking journey into your own take away from these stories. Do you wonder what happens at the funeral home? Do you wonder what happens at the crematorium? Does this book and it’s myriad of information influence how you view death?
I think it will for most people.
I highly recommend. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me this ARC.

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I must say that if you have a queasy stomach or an aversion to graphic descriptions of deceased people, you may want to avoid this book, otherwise, if those things don't bother you, this is the book for you. I fall somewhere in between those two, I found some parts of the book a bit disturbing, especially the description of the baby, it stayed with the author and I found myself thinking about it as well. The author has a fascination with death, apparently even as a young one. There is a statement in the book that the first dead person you see should not be a loved one, not sure how you would avoid that in life, the first deceased person I saw was my grandmother, though her death was expected (she had a form of dementia and did not know anyone when she passed), I still found it distressing to view her. The author takes us to the Mayo clinic to talk to a person that deals with bodies that are donated for scientific purposes, very enlightening. She also talks to a fellow that was the head executioner of his state, first when they used an electric chair (which set the leg and head of the first person they executed after not doing one for about 20 years, on fire) then with drugs. She also talks to a fellow that creates death masks, something that was more common way back in the 14 century. Each section deals with someone who is dealing with a dead person, including funeral directors, midwives who birth babies not expected to live, people that cremate people and people that freeze people to be, hopefully, woken some day. All very interesting and I would recommend if you are bother by that type of stuff. Thanks to #Netgalley and #St Martins for the ARC.

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The topic of death is still so taboo in our culture - it's not something most people feel comfortable talking about (and often isn't even approached unless a person is currently grieving a loss). When I was little, my mom worked at a large cemetery/mortuary (she just worked in human resources for the employees), but I feel like death was a little more normalized in my life than for other children. Still, I had no idea how many different aspects there are that make up the death industry and how many death workers there are that the general public knows nothing about.

Hayley Campbell's nonfiction book follows her journey interviewing various death workers - everyone from a crime scene clean-up worker to a funeral home director. Each worker has a unique perspective on their job and what they're able to bring to the families and the dead themselves during their small piece of the death timeline. There were a few chapters that really stuck out to me: the crisis management team member who has worked mass casualty events (and works to identify bodies - or parts of bodies - in events like plane crashes or natural disasters), the executioner who takes on the responsibility of actually enforcing the death penalty, and the bereavement midwife who helps mothers deliver babies who are already dead or who will not survive. These were all jobs that I had never thought about someone having to do before I read this book. There is so much heartache and anguish in these chapters, but also such a dignity and respect that each worker feels for the job they do.

I can't imagine working in some of these positions but Campbell does an incredibly skilled job putting herself in the action so that the reader can picture what it would be like to autopsy a body or to work as a gravedigger. Her fascination with death and her insight into the human condition makes this book both hard to read and absolutely captivating at the same time (and yes, pretty morbid at times). You can tell she put so much of her own pathos and heart into writing this book - and I think each reader will have a richer perspective on the process of death and how it can affect our own viewpoints after they're through. Although this book might not be everyone's cup of tea, I'm so grateful for having read it.

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good investigation backed up by good writing. endlessly fascinating, horrifying, touching. also made me cry quite a bit (including one instance of heaving sobs), but not always in the places you might think.

campbell's own views are apparent, and this is sometimes additive, lending a personal touch to the topic. on other occasions, it can be subtractive in a frustrating way. there are a few instances where i felt that her own opinions kept her from fully exploring a topic.

in any case, excellent work.

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all the living and the dead is a thought-provoking, insightful look at the death industry and the people who choose to work with the dead—from gravediggers to executioners, embalmers to midwives.

i found this book unexpectedly fascinating in its honesty. as a society, we both fear death and hide it; in the series of interviews campbell conducts, she explores the lives of the select few people who instead choose to make death their livelihood. while her biases are apparent at times, i enjoyed her writing. it’s unflinching without being unkind, and challenges readers to reconsider their views on death and the dead.

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Curious about the death care industry, including the responsibilities of funeral home directors, gravediggers, and beyond? Perhaps your experience with death is more intimate and learning about death midwifery or incorporating the arts as a form of remembrance is appealing.

Hayley Campbell, a writer for publications such as Esquire, BuzzFeed, WIRED, McSweeney's, and The Guardian, explores these myriad professions and a remarkable assortment more in All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of People Who Have Made Death Their Life's Work (St. Martin's Press, 2022). Her childhood fascination with death, doubts about the afterlife prompted during Catholic school, and continuing recognition that we are surrounded by death every day prompted further examination into the varied people who make death their life’s work.

Through chapters dedicated to each specialty, such as crime scene cleaner and crematorium operator, Campbell delves deeply into the far reaches of corpse beautification, location, and preparation.

Readers of Caitlyn Doughty, Mary Roach, Atul Gawande, and Ernest Becker might want to add this book to their collection.

Thank you to Hayley Campbell, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for my eARC.

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About 15 years ago I very deeply debated going to mortuary school. As a child I went to many funerals (which it seems is unusual) and I think having many people die around you gives you an insight into life and death. Death and corpses weren’t and aren’t something to fear. Death is a guarantee. An inevitable. And voiding yourself of seeing the dead perpetuates this fear.

One issue that plagued me was the commodification of death and the expenses of funerals: The pressure of showing your fondness and love through the fanciest body box and the sanitation of our experience of a dead body.

As an always macabre leaning person I felt a real connection to Hayley Campbell's exploration of what happens after death. The many processes of handling and dismantling, identifying and remembering a person after they’ve left their body.

This book casts a wide net, and I think is a great companion piece or introduction into the death positivity movement. It’s harrowing and heartwarming and fascinating. My only suggestion is maybe to not read the chapter on Disaster Victim Identification WHILE on an airplane like I did. 😂

Thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for providing me with an ARC of this title.

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Yesterday I finished reading All the Living and the Dead and I'm still processing it.
It is really remarkable the delicate way and at the same time so clear and open in which the author approaches a topic as delicate as death and people, usually unknown who remain anonymous but who carry out such important and special tasks with respect to those who have died and those who survive them.
In case any reader is held back from reading this book by the subject it deals with, I can assure you that instead of causing you traumas or nightmares, reading this book will give you peace, by revealing the professional and empathetic way in which the "workers of death" do their job, allowing the deceased to preserve their dignity and supporting their relatives in an event that all of us, sooner or later, will have to face.
I thank the author, publishers, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book, and declare that the opinion I have expressed above is based solely on what I think of this book.

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I really appreciated all the research and detail Hayley Campbell put into this book. So often our culture shies away from talking about death and what happens to a body after. The only reason it took me so long to finish the book is that I usually spend an hour eating at lunchtime. And this book does not go well with lunch. Outside of that I found this book fascinating.

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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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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 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 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'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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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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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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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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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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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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