Modern Dad Book Review: Working Stiff

Book Review – Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

By TJ Mitchell and Judy Melinek

For Christmas my in-laws had the great idea to give something to the family that they love, books. We all got in our cars and drove over to the book store to pick out a book we wanted. They love reading and wanted everyone to join in on that passion, but with the opportunity to choose a book of choice.

As everyone was walking around looking at classic novels (my wife got Little Women), or the children’s section (for all the grandkids), and some in the modern literature by people like Malcom Gladwell. We all clearly had different things we were looking for a in a book. Not me! I knew exactly what I had wanted.

I had heard about this book from the local radio station and it seemed like something I would be interested in.

The book is by Judy Melinek who was working as a medical examiner. In the book she writes her experiences with the  bodies that have passed away and investigates to find their real story. Not everyone would find this genre interesting, but I love it! Each chapter talks about different types of bodies that she would examine. For example she has a chapter about homicide victims, poisoning, suicide, etc; each story being very different from each other.

Being a medical examiner in New York City gave her the opportunity to view so many different  cases and see so many things you wouldn’t see anywhere else. If this were to be by a medical examiner here in Utah all you’d see is suicides and elderly. The same thing over and over would be boring, but she gets a full range of people and it keeps you interested through every chapter.

The chapter that I couldn’t put down was all about 9/11. She talks about walking down the street to work when one of the planes flew right over her head. She didn’t think anything of it at the time, but that they seemed to be flying low. Once she walked into the doors of work someone ran into her room saying that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

For me, this chapter was the most interesting. I was really in a whole other world when 9/11 happened. I was serving an LDS mission and had no idea of anything going on. It wasn’t until that night at a dinner that the family told us what happened and turned the news on. I still didn’t get it because the news hadn’t really known what happened (at least not the news this family was showing me).

To read the details from a person that was not only living in the city, but working there as well was inspiring. Not only that, but working on the bodies that they were bringing in from the fallen buildings. Crazy to read it and not have seen any of the details really of this major event in our nation’s history.

If you love medical books that have stories of their work, then this is the book to read. You won’t be able to put it down. Now I must warn you, if you are like me you will get a little paranoid. As I would read about these deaths I would think about how these things could happen to anyone, even me.

It also made me grateful for the lifestyle I live, keeping me safe from maybe three of the chapters: suicide, alcohol and drug abuse. It made me think about how when I was single I didn’t care so much where I went or what I did. I just didn’t feel like I had a purpose or anyone to really live for, not that I was suicidal, but I was just focused on myself and worried about making sure I was good.

Now I have a wife, son and family to live for. Reading this book made me think about making sure they are safe and free from danger. Yes, things can happen and I could be gone tomorrow, but I know that together, with my family, I live each day to the fullest!