Working Stiff by Judy Melinek and TJ Mitchell

working stiff

Well, I have not enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed this one in a long time. But then, I have not read any non-fiction for a long time, so there might be a lesson in there. This was incredibly interesting from cover to cover. I read this for the Huntington Beach Non-Fiction Book Group. This woman’s job is completely awesome, absolutely fascinating, and there is not a chance in the world that I could ever do anything like this.

This is the story of Dr Judy Melinek’s two years of working as a forensic pathologist trainee in Manhattan. She cuts up dead people to work out how and why they died. She explains why she went in to this field, rather than any other sort of doctoring, and she gives us a little background on her upbringing and her home life. I would love to have dinner with her, she would have so many stories. Actually, not dinner, I have a weak stomach.

She tells at least one story about pretty much every way you can die, or at least the common ways in Manhattan (where I used to live). She had worked in this field in Los Angeles (close to where I live now) and she said that she had car crash victim after car crash victim, which you do not get much of in Manhattan, because the cars cannot get fast enough to kill people, unless the driver is drunk.

The book has stories of murders, accidents, suicides, medical procedures gone wrong, quite a few falls from high buildings (it is Manhattan, of course there are) and, towards the end, a long chapter on dealing with the bodies from the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001. I have not read anything so though-provoking for a while. I read a large portion of it out to my husband, when he was next to me as I read, and saved most of the rest of it up to tell him about when he was not next to me. I know I will be telling people stories from this one for a long time to come, and that is a sign of a good non-fiction book.

I did a lot of gasping in shock, swearing out loud and some weeping when reading this. She works on the bodies of people of all ages, and that 9/11 chapter is extremely upsetting. But still brilliant. There is a truly incredible bit about the worst way to die (in her opinion). It is astounding, but I think it might be an only-in-Manhattan possibility.

This is my top recommendation for this year; read it, it’s great. Definitely read it if you are thinking of committing suicide or murdering someone, it may make you rethink your methods. Definitely read it if you are eating a lot of fatty foods or drinking a lot of alcohol. But if you are a reader over lunchtimes don’t read it then, there is a lot of blood and gore and brains and odours and maggots and things.

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