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Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-In-Trainingby Tom Jokinen
Synopses & Reviews
At forty-four, Tom Jokinen decided to quit his job in order to become an apprentice undertaker, setting out to ask the questions: What is the right thing to do when someone dies? With the marketplace offering new options (go green, go anti-corporate, go Disney, be packed into an artificial reef and dropped in the Atlantic...), is there still room for tradition? In a year of adventures both hair-raising and hilarious, Jokinen finds a world that is radically changed since Jessica Mitford revised The American Way of Death, more surprising than Six Feet Under, and even funnier and more illuminating than Stiff.
If Bill Bryson were to apprentice at a funeral home, searching for the meaning of life and death, youd have Curtains.
"A CBC journalist in Winnepeg taking 'a month's leave to dabble in deathcare' reveals the changing face of the funeral industry in this informative but rote tour of duty, an update of sorts on Jessica Mitford's 1963 The American Way of Death. On his first day as an intern at the Winnepeg crematorium run by Neil Bardal, the undertaker tells him that 'the traditional funeral is gone and it's never coming back'; the bereft world has embraced cremation, with specific impact on a number of industry segments, from vehicles and florists to tombstones and caskets. Jokinen is nonchalantly graphic when getting into the day-to-day of cremation ('I dump the pan of bones onto the steel table and crunch through it with the heavy magnet'), touching on juvenile at times, but makes the point in many ways that, eventually, we'll all be paying for this industry's changes. The industry's big bet is that 75 million North American baby boomers, afraid of death, will want unprecedented control over their funerals, illustrated in examples like a successful Milwaukee funeral home owner who calls Ritz-Carlton and Disney his models. Readers who understand that Joniken took on the role of apprentice undertaker for one reason (they're reading it) will find an interesting glimpse into an almost-invisible industry, and the forces pushing it in strange new directions." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
"Two rules for picking up a body at the hospital, known as a 'removal': (1) Make sure it's the right one. (2) Never stop for food on the way back to the funeral home, not even at a drive-thru." Jokinen, now a radio producer and video journalist, tells of his apprenticeship, at age 44, in a small, family-owned funeral home. With gentle humor and compassion, he writes about the people he worked with, who have been in the industry all of their lives, as well as the many bereaved families he observed during his apprenticeship. Interwoven with accounts of his bumbling attempts to collect corpses, embalm them, and drive a hearse, are explorations of our culture's rapidly changing relationship with death and the dead. Particularly moving is a comparison of the latest consumer trends for funerals with the simple rituals of the Mennonites of the rural Midwest. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In the tradition of Stiff and The Undertaking: Tom Jokinens year as an apprentice undertaker offers an enlightening, lively, and surprisingly funny trip through the business of death
About the Author
Tom Jokinen is a radio producer and video-journalist who has also worked as a railroad operator and an editorial cartoonist. Jokinen spent two years in medical school, where he dissected two human cadavers. He and his wife live in Ottawa.
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