If Bill Bryson were to join a funeral home as an apprentice, and if he searched for the meaning of life and death while he was at it, you'd have Curtains.
At 44, Tom Jokinen quit a good government job to work at a family-run funeral home and crematorium as a trainee undertaker. This drastic vocational change gave him an amazing opportunity to explore, first-hand, our culture’s relationship with the dead, dying, and left behind. In a modern society where religion has lost its grip on rituals of transition, the funeral trade is fighting to find ways to make its work relevant to a new, secular, consumer culture, and positioning itself for its biggest potential wave of income ever: the death of the baby boomers.
Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker in Training is a hair-raising and hilarious first-person account of Jokinen’s adventures. Outside of his work, which includes embalming, dressing bodies and cleaning corpses down to their fingernails, Jokinen attends a funeral trade show in Las Vegas and visits Los Angeles and San Francisco, the meccas of the new funeral customs and eco-friendly or ‘green’ burials: no casket, no embalming chemicals, but straight into the ground, in a forest, to let nature unfold. Some of the new customs approach circus absurdity, but all raise the key issue of ‘What is the appropriate response to death?’
Enlightening, funny and full of life in the midst of death, Curtains lifts the veil on the death and funeral industry in the 21st century.