Author: Elizabeth Greenwood
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Summary: This was a fascinating story written in a very accessible way, perfect for fans of Mary Roach or Caitlin Doughty.
Inspired by a joking comment about faking her own death to avoid student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood stumbled into the world of death fraud. She meets people who find people; people who help others disappear; people who believe some famous dead people are just faking it; and people who have been caught after faking their own death. She also experiments with some of the steps necessary to fake her own death and considers what might inspire someone to take such a drastic step.
Picking up a nonfiction book on such a quirky topic, I couldn’t help going in with comparisons to Mary Roach in mind. Initially I was a little disappointed because this book wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as Mary Roach’s books, but by the end the author had won me over with her authentic voice and appropriately more thoughtful, serious tone. This actually ended up reminding me more of Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets In Your Eyes than Mary Roach’s Stiff, although I think fans of either author would find this accessible, off-beat book a great read.
There were a few little things that were still off with the tone though. Her comments on gender and a reference to “surviving a pseudocide attempt” (with pseudocide being common parlance for faking your own death) could have used a bit more tact. I also didn’t buy all her personal theories, such as the possibility that disappearing is more tempting in the lonely digital era. Despite these small flaws, I really enjoyed this book. The author told a fascinating story and she told it well. Her personal experiences, her musing on human nature, and her interviews were all engaging and entertaining. I would recommend this to any fans of nonfiction on quirky topics and specifically to fans of both Mary Roach and Caitlin Doughty.