Book Review: All That Remains

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The book cover suggests a factual, maybe even clinical assessment of what remains (of us) when we die. However, the book combines deeply personal reflections on death including the deaths of loved ones, with the cold, hard process of decomposition.

I reviewed this book on my website. However, I refrained there from personal information. But here, on my blog, it is more appropriate to discuss them. Truth: I was uncomfortable reading this book from the beginning.

Why?

Sue Black is a skilled writer and scientist who combined a journal, a memoir, with forensic knowledge into one book. I have never had problems reading about autopsy reports, remains, death, or decomposition but this time, it got to me.

I could not put my finger on it other than that Black describes deaths in her own family from a very personal point of view. We get to know the person who passed away, the relationship that she had with them, and how she processed their deaths.

Then in Chapter 10 about Kosovo, it became clear what was happening to me. On page 249, Black describes how one person in her team “had made the cardinal error of mentally transposing the face of his own young daughter on to the mutilated body of this little girl and he was finding it difficult to cope.”

And that’s what happened.

Throughout the book, all these personal reflections on loss and death made me relive deaths in my own family. The causes of death, the ways of burial, the deceased’s personality, in every one of her cases I had seen someone of my own family. And with that I relived my own memories and grief.

So, if you decide to pick up this book, and I do recommend it, make sure that you do not transfer any personal memories or mental pictures onto Black’s memories.

If you read the book, let me know what you think.

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