The Good Death
by Ann Neumann
I haven't read a book about death and dying for awhile since my husband died. I guess I needed a break. But I continued to age, and think and talk from time to time about the aging and inevitable dying and death. So while the review in The New York Times Book Review of The Good Death by Ann Neumann was not enough for me to add it to my enormous list of books-to-read, running across it on the shelf at the library made it destiny.
I'm glad I did. Yes, this book is informative and exhaustive, but it personal, and it is also a page turner. Neumann talks about so many aspects of death and dying that I would never have thought of, and she does it by combining journalism with personal anecdotes. The people with whom she engages us speak louder than any essay about the issues she covers.
And she covers a lot of issues.
She begins with her own experience of her father's last days, which motivates her to volunteer for hospice care. From there she talks about our society's ambivalence about hospice, which is also society's ambivalence about pain and punishment. She delves into the communion of those who are against the aid in dying movement with the anti-abortion movement, with those with severe disabilities who see aid in dying as a veiled threat against their own desire to live. And she talks about the confused morality of the prison hospice system, and the insanity of the death sentence.
It is times like this that I really wish I could write. Because I would be able to describe for you in this short blog post just how incredible this book is. I can say that it moved me as much as the groundbreaking Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.
Let me just say that if you know anyone who is getting old and dying, or if you think you might get old and die, you should read this short but amazing book.