All the Living and the Dead Summary and Reviews

All the Living and the Dead

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

by Hayley Campbell

All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell X
All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell
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About this book

Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Campbell works her way through the machinery of the death industry, interviewing morticians, embalmers, crime scene cleaners, executioners, and others...strikingly poignant...A careful, moving investigation of existential matters told with a keen literary sense and memorable personal insights." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Campbell's genuine curiosity, careful reporting, and insightful commentary make for an engrossing read. Readers will appreciate both her meticulous reporting and her marked compassion." - Booklist (starred review)

"[A] gripping look at professionals who deal with the end of life and their efforts to give people 'dignity in death'...Though the morbid details won't be for everyone, Campbell is a sharp and witty observer who successfully conveys her own fascination with the subject. This is a vivid and open-minded look at a taboo topic." - Publishers Weekly

"Provocative, loving, and profound." - The Times (UK)

"Campbell is a gorgeous writer, capturing the exquisite pathos and gallows humor found in folks who spend their lives working with the dead. Anyone who has ever considered death work will devour this book." - Caitlin Doughty, New York Times bestselling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

"How should we live, when death is always with us? All the Living and the Dead is a book about death, and how to stop pretending about it. Hayley Campbell is working out a philosophy of death by getting close to it; holding it; asking interesting questions of people who spend their lives dealing with it. This is an essential, compassionate, honest examination of how we deal with death, and how it changes the living." - Audrey Niffenegger, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife

"This book is moving, funny, and liable to unexpectedly cause me to tear up. It's about the head and the heart of death, about who we are, and is filled with images and moments that will remain in my head until the end. A gentle book and, like death itself, an unexpectedly kind one." - Neil Gaiman, New York Times bestselling author of Good Omens and Coraline

This information about All the Living and the Dead was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Hayley Campbell

Hayley Campbell is an author, broadcaster, and journalist. Her work has appeared in WIRED, the Guardian, New Statesman, Empire, GQ, and more. Her books include All the Living and the Dead and The Art of Neil Gaiman. She lives in London with her cat, Ned.

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