Death’s Summer Coat: What the History of Death and Dying Teaches Us About Life and Living

Brandy Schillace. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-60598-938-9
Schillace, managing editor of the journal Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, goes beyond the typical treatise on mortality with this wide-ranging and captivating history of what it means to be alive. Beginning as early as her research permits (around 1800 B.C.E., with the first known medical text on pregnancy), she goes up to the present, showing how the rituals and procedures surrounding death derive from the theories humans use to come to terms with it. As Schillace herself notes, the book favors Western sources, with occasional dips into other cultures. Nonetheless, her explorations are extensive and interdisciplinary, drawing on research in the sciences but also valuing the many expressions of death in the arts. Accordingly, each chapter is illustrated with images, such as religious artwork and—most hauntingly—Victorian-era memento mori photography. Schillace, simply through her personable voice and personal stories, is able to breathe compassion into what might otherwise be a depressing topic. Though the main theme of grief and loss in death is familiar, readers will come away with ample new—and endlessly fascinating—information. This vibrant window to other lives also creates a deeper understanding of one’s own. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/05/2015
Release date: 01/01/2016
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-78396-040-8
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-68177-093-2
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-68177-324-7
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