Book Review: Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training

Tom Jokinen

Da Capo Press

288 pages

I’ll admit, I have a morbid curiosity, and death has always fascinated me.  Books like Stiff, by Mary Roach are right up my alley, and in my attempt to find something in that vein to read for RIP VI.  I stumbled across this one on Amazon and downloaded the sample.  Twenty minutes later, I knew I was paying for this bad boy, and I continued to read well into the night.

Tom Jokinen decides to spend almost an entire year immersing himself in the funeral industry.  Inspired by Jessica Mitford (sister of Nancy) who wrote The American Way of Death and, thirty years later, The American Way of Death Revisited (one of my favorite books), Jokinen sheds light on the affect Mitford has had on the funeral industry and the way the industry has evolved in the last few decades, with cremation becoming more and more popular.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the interesting tidbits I gleaned from Jokinen’s memoir.

•By 2025, 59% of decedents will be cremated

•Red lipstick may look good on you while you’re alive, but once you die, purple lipstick is where it’s at.

•Speaking of makeup, you can’t use regular makeup on dead people, being as makeup adheres due to the heat in your body.  Therefore, a corpse needs something more like shellac.

•In Europe, it is common to lease a grave for 15 years.  If, when the lease ends, you choose not to renew it, the bones will be removed.

•Death rates are expected to rise again in 2020, when the baby boomers start dying off.

•A typical cremation uses 16 gallons of gasoline.  Obviously not very eco friendly.

Curtains is filled with hundreds of little nuggets like these, which I love.  I was rapt and read the entire book in less than 48 hours.  If you know of any other books that are similar to this, definitely let me know.

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Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

S Krishna’s Books

I purchased this book from Amazon for my kindle.

This book counts towards RIP VI.

16 Responses

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  2. I’m a sucker for these types of books too. I’m going to have to add this to my wish list!

  3. Those Mitfords were a diverse group of sisters!

  4. i have this book sitting on my bookshelf and now i can’t wait to read it!

  5. I’ve had to deal with awful death related situations for my last job (in child protection) and was okay with that, but for some reason the thought of reading about the topic in general makes me nervous, lol.. that trivia was interesting though. Is he saying that the number of cremations are on the rise?

  6. I’m right there with you! Go morbid fascinations! I’ll be adding this book to my list, thank you very much.

  7. I’m fascinated by deathy type books too! This sounds like a fun addition.

  8. Considering my recent obsession with Six Feet Under, this definitely sounds like a book for me!

  9. This sounds strangely interesting! Stiff is next up on my ipod.

  10. This sounds fascinating. It’s definitely going on my TBR.

  11. I may not read this book, but thanks for those facts! There’s a lot I didn’t know. Especialy the makeup one! I didn’t know that.

  12. Wow, how fascinating. Definitely on my TBR list now. One of the most interesting books I ever read was by a Home Office pathologist. I’m also really taken by the idea of Stiff as I’m considering leaving my body to science when I die. Maybe it’ll put me off….

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