Playing Dead (Elizabeth Greenwood)

Do you love your life?  Sure, you have good days and bad ones, everybody does.  But has the thought ever gone through your mind–just for a second–that you wish you could leave it all behind and start fresh?

That’s what Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud is about.  Leaving it all behind.  Unfortunately (for those of us who have imagined such a fate) it’s usually not very simple, and actually a pretty tough thing to pull off. 

Given the choice, some of us would opt for super strength.  Some of us would choose the ability to climb buildings.  But some of us (like me) would gladly accept the power of invisibility.  Not because of shameful tendencies (I love the episode, This American Life, but you’re wrong) but because we’re sometimes content to observe the world rather than squarely being a part of it.  To me, disappearing from my life feels, on some level, like suddenly gaining the power of invisibility.  I’ve pondered faking my own death.  Haven’t you?

Playing Dead, then, is obviously fascinating to me.  Greenwood discusses how much student loan debt she has, and how she feels stagnant within her life.  This leads her down the path of pondering just walking away from it all.  Several months–or years–of research later, does she change her mind?  And, having learned much, much more about the intricacies involved in faking your death, would YOU change yours?  That’s the question embedded in this wonderful book.

Obviously, dropping out of the world has some real down-sides.  What about leaving your dog behind?  Or your children?  What are the legalities of doing something like this, and is anyone likely to actually go after you and try to bring you back?  I feel that the author put a whole lot of work into answering these questions, and more that I’d never even thought about.  How much does it cost to buy a corpse in the Philippines, you ask?  If you’d read Playing Dead, you’d know.  It’s probably less than you’d think…

I found the book to be infinitely readable, and alternately hilarious and poignant.  I loved its reflections on mortality, humanity, and what it means to actually live your life.  I really enjoyed this, and suspect that you’d enjoy it too.  If you’ve ever wondered about the subject, this is definitely the way to get an in-depth education.  And if you haven’t wondered about the subject, shouldn’t you read it anyway (just in case your partner disappears tomorrow)?

Highly recommended.  96 out of 100!  Here’s a link to buy Playing Dead, if you’re so inclined.  4 stars on Amazon, with 44 reviews.

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