A Forensic Anthropologist on Her Life’s Work in Death

Book review: All that Remains, by Sue Black (Amazon / Book Depository) As the product of a strict, no-nonsense, Scottish Presbyterian family where a spade was called a shovel and empathy and sentimentality were often viewed as weaknesses, I like to think my upbringing has made me pragmatic and thick-skinned, a coper and a realist. When it comes to matters of life and death I harbor … Continue reading A Forensic Anthropologist on Her Life’s Work in Death

A Mysterious Death and a Macabre Memoir

Book review: An Unexplained Death, by Mikita Brottman Book Depository Author Mikita Brottman lives in the Belvedere, a historic building in Baltimore that had a long life as a hotel and now is sectioned into apartments, bars and event spaces. Brottman admits to a fascination with the morbid, as many of us have, and hotels can be a mysterious, magnetic space for types with such … Continue reading A Mysterious Death and a Macabre Memoir

Recipe for a Zombie: Science Immerses in Haitian Magic

Book review: The Serpent and the Rainbow, by Wade Davis Book Depository The Serpent and the Rainbow is a modern classic, a story that flirts with a deep-seated fear out of one of humanity’s collective darkest nightmares – that of being buried alive, and of being raised to live as “undead”. But the book isn’t strictly horror. It’s a perfect example of reality’s scary stories being … Continue reading Recipe for a Zombie: Science Immerses in Haitian Magic

Elegies for the Dead She’s Known

Book review: The Baltimore Book of the Dead, by Marion Winik Book Depository People do not pass away. / They die / and then they stay. Poet and author Marion Winik opens this second volume of creative short elegies to departed people she’s known, tinged with personal memoir, with those lines from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Voices in the Air”. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting … Continue reading Elegies for the Dead She’s Known

Elegies for the Departed

Book review: The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, by Marion Winik (Amazon) After a creative writing assignment led her to thinking about dead people she’d known, poet and author Marion Winik explains that it was “as if tickets to a show had just gone on sale and all my ghosts were screeching up at the box office.” This never seemed morbid or depressing to me. … Continue reading Elegies for the Departed

Cleaning the Pain of Others’ Lives With Lessons Learned From Her Own

Book review: The Trauma Cleaner, by Sarah Krasnostein (Amazon / Book Depository) This is how it ends, sometimes, with strangers in gloves looking at your blood and your too-many bottles of shampoo and your now-ironic Make Positive Changes postcard of Krishna and the last TV channel you flipped to on the night you died and the way the sun hits the tree outside your bedroom … Continue reading Cleaning the Pain of Others’ Lives With Lessons Learned From Her Own

A Modern Classic on the Surreality of Mourning

Book review: The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (Amazon / Book Depository) Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity. Those words were the first that Joan Didion wrote after her husband’s death. In case you’ve never heard of it, The Year of Magical Thinking is journalistic legend Didion’s highly praised, often … Continue reading A Modern Classic on the Surreality of Mourning

Life Lessons Learned in the Service of Death

Book review: The Education of a Coroner, by John Bateson “When it comes to county government, the coroner’s office often is the forgotten stepchild. People don’t want to think about it, and they definitely don’t want to know any details of how it operates.” Longtime Marin County, California coroner Ken Holmes tells tales from his line of work and a long, experienced career, and disproves … Continue reading Life Lessons Learned in the Service of Death