Book Review: Working Stiff By Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

WORKING STIFF
Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

By: Judy Melinek, M.D. and T.J. Mitchell

Published: August 12, 2014

Publisher: Scribner

Non-Fiction

For some reason, I am fascinated by medical memoirs. This one is kind of on the other end of medical…more in the morgue, but still an interesting look at the life of a medical examiner.

Judy Melinek and her husband, T.J. Mitchell have chronicled her two years working as a New York City medical examiner. She discusses some of her most bizarre and intense deaths during that time, including murder scenes, drug overdoses, and accidents. Life in New York City is never dull and each day was full of surprises.

I mostly listened to this on audio, narrated by Tanya Eby. I had both the Kindle and audible narration but found it was easier to listen to than to read. I will warn you that the material is quite graphic. Melinek does not hold back with her descriptions of the death scene or examination of the body. If you are at all squeamish, this book would NOT be for you. But, I found it easier to listen to the graphic descriptions rather than to read them. I did find myself cringing a bit while driving though at the descriptions. Eby’s voice was easy to listen to and even found ways to change her voice for the various medical doctors and law enforcement that were on each scene. Eby was actually an Earphones Winner for her narration of WORKING STIFF.

Melinek obviously meets the various people after their life has ended, but finds ways to bring each of them to life by offering various background information either through the police reports or conversations with family. Melinek’s own father committed suicide and she spends several pages discussing that impact on her life and attending other suicides while on her job. She even found a way to offer support to one grieving family which, I’m sure, gave her a sense of comfort as well.

The most difficult part of the book to listen to was her chapter discussing her work after 9/11. Even when I started the book and knew what year she was working in New York City, it never even occurred to me that she would be working on September 11, 2001. So, as she started describing her morning I realized the horror she was going to take the readers through on the following pages…and it was beyond horrific. I can’t imagine what the first responders, fire department professionals, and law enforcement went through in the days, months, and years following 9/11. What they had to witness and go through was disastrous and life-changing. Listening to this section of the book actually caused me to pull my car over as I was crying too much to drive while listening. This part of the book has left quite an impact on me and will forever change how I view 9/11.

What most impressed me about Melinek was that she was able to separate her work life from her home life. During these early years in her career, she was a wife and mother to a toddler and then pregnant again. After viewing the unimaginable every day, she seamlessly went home and led the role of wife and mother. I, on the other hand, would have had a difficult time separating the two.  She talked about her day just like any other spouse would and then got on with the business of motherhood. She is a great example of working parents in stressful careers.

Judy Melinek, M.D. – source

Judy Melinek, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard University. She trained at UCLA in medicine and pathology, graduating in 1996. Her training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York is the subject of her memoir, Working Stiff, which she co-wrote with her husband. Currently, Dr. Melinek is an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSF, and works as a forensic pathologist in San Francisco. She also travels nationally and internationally to lecture on anatomic and forensic pathology and she has been consulted as a forensic expert in many high-profile legal cases, as well as for the television shows E.R. and Mythbusters. For more info on Judy Melinek, click HERE

Tanya Eby – source

To find out more about this award-winning narrator and see all the books she has read to listeners over the years, click HERE.

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