Title: Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training
Author: Tom Jokinen
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Publisher: Da Capo Pres
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In this book, Tom Jokinen recounts his time as an undertaker-in-training at a funeral home in Winnipeg, Canada. He uses his experiences to deliver information on the funeral industry, as well as to comment on its practices.
A word of warning: if you don’t have at least a somewhat morbid sense of humor, don’t even bother with Curtains. If you do, though, then you might find this book as delightful as I did.
Tom Jokinen has a dry wit that works very well in Curtains. He describes funeral practices in detail, inserting enough commentary to keep the narrative entertaining. Additionally, he finds himself in the funniest situations. For example, at one point he’s driving a hearse with a dead body in the back and listening to Mr. Roboto by Styx. Upon reflecting, he turns off the radio, thinking that Mr. Roboto is probably not an appropriate song to send a person off. It’s these kinds of moments that make the book worth reading – inappropriate, yet morbidly amusing.
Additionally, I found the tidbits of information Jokinen relayed to be very interesting. I didn’t know much about funeral homes or death practices when I began this book, so I feel like I learned a lot. Though Jokinen does not shy away from detailed descriptions of the processes used to prepare a body for burial, or the process and aftermath of cremation, I was never really turned off. I don’t do well with graphic violence, yet this didn’t bother me. Jokinen’s matter-of-fact method of communication worked very well.
The greater commentary about the funeral industry was surprising. Jokinen relayed information that I didn’t expect (mainly, the growing popularity of cremation). It was really interesting to read about the politics between different funeral homes, as well as the relationships these institutions try to develop with the living. Jokinen’s discussion was simply fascinating and I was engrossed from beginning to end.
Curtains was absorbing, which I hoped for, and very funny, which I really didn’t expect. I feel like I didn’t really do the book justice with this review. If you enjoy non-fiction, don’t hesitate to pick this one up. It’s interesting, fun, and very easy to read!