Narrators: Shelley Frasier
Rating: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Length: 7 hours, 59 minutes
Pages: 304(print version)
Challenges: 2012 Audio Book Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Synopsis (from School Library Journal): Those curious or brave enough to find out what really happens to a body that is donated to the scientific community can do so with this book. Dissection in medical anatomy classes is about the least bizarre of the purposes that science has devised. Mostly dealing with such contemporary uses such as stand-ins for crash-test dummies, Roach also pulls together considerable historical and background information. In all cases, the comic relief welcomes readers back to the world of the living. For those who are interested in the fields of medicine or forensics and are aware of some of the procedures, this book makes excellent reading.
Overall Impression: People know that I read a lot, and often ask me what I’m reading. Often, people tilt their heads to one side and say, “Really? Why?” Never more true than with Stiff.
But I do like my books a little on the twisted side, so I’m not surprised that despite its delicate topic and my proclivity toward squeamishness, I quite enjoyed this book. I think it comes down to the fact that I just like learning things, especially weird things, and I appreciate when the information is presented in an engaging, compassionate, and humorous manner. Roach nailed all of these things in Stiff.
She traces the history of cadavers and the ways they have been treated (and mistreated) over time. She also has some fascinating sections about what people today can do with their remains — burial, cremation, organ donation, donate their bodies to science (which includes things like being practiced on by plastic surgeons or used as a crash test dummy), and, my personal favorite, being composted into food for a tree. The chapter on cannibals was probably the most stomach-churning — some of the things people have ingested over the years were enough to make me gag just hearing about them.
Overall, I thought Roach handled her subject matter with a lot of dignity and grace, while still maintaining her dry sense of humor and thorough journalistic reporting. Some readers may be turned off by the whole thing, but I think fans of other nonfiction of this sort will find a lot to like about Stiff.
Positives: Fascinating. Made me consider things I had never considered before, and gave me a deep appreciation for the different choices people make about what happens to their bodies after they die.
Negatives: There were a few things that turned my stomach a little. And there was part of me that wishes it was longer and explored a little more what happens in other countries, not just the US and Europe so much.
Narration: Shelly Frasier did a fine job, and half the time I forgot it was being narrated by someone other than Roach herself. Frasier is how I imagine Roach to actually sound.
Other books I’ve read by Mary Roach: none
Other books I’ve listened to narrated by Shelley Frasier: none
Other blogger opinions:
KellyVision: “This is a well-written, interesting and entertaining book. It’s also one I didn’t particularly care for.”
Coffee and a Book Chick: “While I giggled, cringed, and gasped through chapters, it gave me quite a bit to think about, even so much as changing my own opinion on my plans for when my time comes…”
Fyrefly’s Book Blog: “…on the whole, Roach does an excellent job of cutting through the ookiness and taboo nature of her topic without trivializing or dismissing it entirely.”