The Unclaimed By Pamela Prickett, Stefan Timmermans

  • Narrated by: Nan McNamara
  • Length: 9 hrs and 39 mins
  • Release date: 03-12-24

The Unclaimed By Pamela Prickett, Stefan Timmermans AudioBook summary

An intimate, deeply moving investigation of an underreported phenomenon—the rising number of unclaimed dead in America today—and what it says about the state of our society

“Cleareyed and disturbing, yet pulsing with empathy . . . [this] book is a work of grace.”—The New York Times

For centuries, people who died destitute or alone were buried in potters’ fields—a Dickensian end that even the most hard-pressed families tried to avoid. Today, more and more relatives are abandoning their dead, leaving it to local governments to dispose of the bodies. Up to 150,000 Americans now go unclaimed each year. Who are they? Why are they being forgotten? And what is the meaning of life if your death doesn’t matter to others?

In this extraordinary work of narrative nonfiction, eight years in the making, sociologists Pamela Prickett and Stefan Timmermans uncover a hidden social world. They follow four individuals in Los Angeles, tracing the twisting, poignant paths that put each at risk of going unclaimed, and introducing us to the scene investigators, notification officers, and crematorium workers who care for them when no one else will.

The Unclaimed lays bare the difficult truth that anyone can be abandoned. It forces us to confront a variety of social ills, from the fracturing of families and the loneliness of cities to the toll of rising inequality. But it is also filled with unexpected moments of tenderness. In Boyle Heights, a Mexican American neighborhood not far from the glitter of Hollywood, hundreds of strangers come together each year to mourn the deaths of people they never knew. These ceremonies, springing up across the country, reaffirm our shared humanity and help mend our frayed social fabric.


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