Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real About the End (Hardcover)

Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real About the End By Alua Arthur Cover Image

Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real About the End (Hardcover)

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A deeply transformative memoir that reframes how we think about death and how it can help us lead better, more fulfilling and authentic lives, from America’s most visible death doula.

"A truly unique, inspiring perspective on the time we have, what we do with it, and how we let go of this world.... There is no one I'd trust more to guide me through an understanding of death, and how it informs life." — Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Mad Honey and The Book of Two Ways

"Briefly Perfectly Human is a beautiful, raw, light-bringing experience. Alua's voice is shimmering, singular, and pulses with humor, vulnerability, insight, and refreshing candor.... Be prepared for it to grab you, hold you tight, and raise the roof on the power of human connection." — Tembi Locke, author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home

For her clients and everyone who has been inspired by her humanity, Alua Arthur is a friend at the end of the world. As our country’s leading death doula, she’s spreading a transformative message: thinking about your death—whether imminent or not—will breathe wild, new potential into your life.

Warm, generous, and funny AF, Alua supports and helps manage end-of-life care on many levels. The business matters, medical directives, memorial planning; but also honoring the quiet moments, when monitors are beeping and loved ones have stepped out to get some air—or maybe not shown up at all—and her clients become deeply contemplative and want to talk. Aching, unfinished business often emerges. Alua has been present for thousands of these sacred moments—when regrets, fears, secret joys, hidden affairs, and dim realities are finally said aloud. When this happens, Alua focuses her attention at the pulsing center of her clients’ anguish and creates space for them, and sometimes their loved ones, to find peace.

This has had a profound effect on Alua, who was already no stranger to death’s periphery. Her family fled a murderous coup d’état in Ghana in the 1980s. She has suffered major, debilitating depressions. And her dear friend and brother-in-law died of lymphoma. Advocating for him in his final months is what led Alua to her life’s calling. She knows firsthand the power of bearing witness and telling the truth about life’s painful complexities, because they do not disappear when you look the other way. They wait for you.

Briefly Perfectly Human is a life-changing, soul-gathering debut, by a writer whose empathy, tenderness, and wisdom shimmers on the page. Alua Arthur combines intimate storytelling with a passionate appeal for loving, courageous end-of-life care—what she calls “death embrace.” Hers is a powerful testament to getting in touch with something deeper in our lives, by embracing the fact of our own mortality. “Hold that truth in your mind,” Alua says, “and wondrous things will begin to grow around it.”

Alua Arthur is the most visible and active death doula working in America today. She is a recovering attorney and the founder of Going with Grace, a death doula training and end-of-life planning organization. Her TED Talk titled, “Why Thinking About Death Helps You Live a Better Life,” went online in July 2023 and has already received 1.3 million views. A frequent guest on TV and radio, Arthur has been featured on CBS’s The Doctors and in Disney's Limitless docu-series with Chris Hemsworth, as well as in national print media outlets, such as Vogue, InStyle, the Los Angeles Times, The Cut, The New Yorker, and the New York Times. International newspaper features on Arthur include Brazil’s Estadão and Norway’s Årets Avis. She has appeared on dozens of podcasts, and a Refinery29 video feature on Arthur and her work received ten million views across social platforms. In non-pandemic times, she travels the country and world as a keynote speaker, addressing audiences of several hundred to several thousand people at medical and end-of-life conferences, universities, seminaries, senior citizens’ communities, and more.

"This book is everything I admire about Alua's work. She drapes the reaper in sparkles and sunsets, allowing you to stare down mortality's harshest truths swaddled in safety, joy, and the dignity of unsparing honesty." — Caitlin Doughty, author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

"Briefly Perfectly Human is a beautiful, raw, light-bringing experience. Alua's voice is shimmering, singular, and pulses with humor, vulnerability, insight, and refreshing candor. I am here for every page of this card-on-the-table offering of the authentic heart. Be prepared for it to grab you, hold you tight, and raise the roof on the power of human connection." — Tembi Locke, author of From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home

"There are two truths universal to the human experience: one, we're all going to die, and two, if we try to pretend that's not true, we'll never really live. This is what Alua Arthur knows firsthand — and shares with us in a book sizzling with vitality on every page." — Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and co-host of the Dear Therapists podcast

"Briefly Perfectly Human is a deeply urgent, divinely-inspired memoir that guides our understanding of death as an inevitable part of this glorious human experience. Alua Arthur's life, myriad personal losses, and death doula care are a gift. Her extraordinary insight into how we can truly live is inspiring. As a physician, I strive for the day when we, as Americans, fully support the health of the living and, when it is time, tend to a peaceful death. Briefly Perfectly Human, so aptly titled, is a positive model of what healthcare could be." — Michele Harper, author of The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir

"Alua Arthur's work as a death doula has led her to have a truly unique, inspiring perspective on the time we have, what we do with it, and how we let go of this world. Finally she's offering that perspective to the rest of us, in Briefly Perfectly Human. And it's about time. There is no one I'd trust more to guide me through an understanding of death, and how it informs life." — Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Mad Honey and The Book of Two Ways

"Alua Arthur is a wild gem and a guiding light who is here to help all of us understand one simple truth — that embracing death actually helps us to live a more meaningful life. Briefly Perfectly Human encompasses laughter and love and all the rich complexities that come with being a person in the world. For anyone who has ever loved, grieved, wondered, and feared, this book will leave you inspired and emboldened."  — Claire Bidwell Smith, author of Conscious Grieving

"Thank goodness for Alua Arthur and Briefly Perfectly Human. Her message is kind, simple, urgent and necessary: that the most profound thing any of us can do to prepare for death is to lead a genuine and intentional life. This is our homework, and as Alua shows us by all that she witnesses and shares in these moving and inspiring pages, achieving our best lives is only ever a matter of actually living it — the lives we actually have — with eyes wide open and, if possible, arms outstretched." — BJ Miller, author of A Beginner’s Guide to the End

"Joyful, hilarious, effervescent, brilliant and deeply wise." — Glennon Doyle, on Alua Arthur

"A delightfully warm memoir. Arthur's touching stories provide a lovely reminder of why contemplating the pain of death is so important for living a more intentional, beautiful life." — Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab podcast

"A poetic, inspiring book about how embracing our mortality allows us to find our deepest selves and truly connect with others.... Arthur’s powerful memoir underlines the value of every life." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[An] elegant debut memoir.... Interweaving the account of her journey to becoming a death doula with digressions into her legal career, romantic relationships, bouts of depression, and childhood memories of fleeing Ghana with her family in the 1980s, Arthur poignantly recalls how her clients prepared for death, whether in quiet privacy or surrounded by music, art, and friends, 'in full surrender, grateful for the gift to have been... human.' Taken together, these stories portray death as simultaneously personal, universal, and unknowable, a complexity that Arthur acknowledges with consummate respect.... Readers of Caitlin Doughty and Lori Gottlieb will be fascinated." — Publishers Weekly

"[An] upbeat, entertaining, and life-affirming account.... Witty, themed chapters explore the influences that led Arthur to her career as a death doula and shaped her training, outlook, and personal growth. Her descriptions of past cases ... showcase both her professionalism and her empathetic grace. She shares what she's learned: every day we live, we're one day older than we've ever been before and one day closer to death. It's time to love our ever-evolving selves and make the most of every day. Arthur's is wise, thoughtful, reassuring counsel." — Booklist