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From The CriticsTerkel has written about big issues before, but his latest oral history tackles the biggest: mortality. There are gut-wrenching dispatches from the front lines—from doctors, for example, who see strangers die every day—and heartrending accounts from those who've had to face their own mortality or that of loved ones, whether from the modern plagues of violence, cancer and AIDS or from just growing old. While some of these voices offer speculation (and quite a few good jokes) about what the afterlife might be like, there is wide agreement that what really matters is how we live our lives while we're here, and how we deal with the inevitability of our fate through personal beliefs. Some of Terkel's interlocutors might be described as extraordinary—people who, through luck, strength or some combination of the two, have beaten death. (There's even a typically wise and funny conversation with Dresden survivor Kurt Vonnegut.) But mostly, the book features ordinary people who nevertheless have extraordinary things to say on the meaning of life. This is a powerful, inspiring book.