Saturday, May 22, 2010


By Tom Jokinen
Da Capo Press
Perseus Books Group
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-306-81891-2
280 pages

The most expensive purchases for the average American in their lifetime is in order, their house, their car, and their funeral. At least with a house and car, there is something physical that you can touch and expect the envy of your friends and neighbors. Most of us can understand the house and the car, but who is envious about someone’s casket or urn? What choices do you have?
Tom Jokinen is/was a journalist who decided to research the funeral business. His initial plan seemed to research and write an updated sequel to Jessica Mitford’s THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH which was published in 1963. His plan was to work inside a funeral home/ crematorium and to learn about the basics of this industry. Also, Mr. Jokinen even attended a conference for mortuary directors in Las Vegas.
With a humorous voice, CURTAINS is informative and thought-provoking. The practical aspect was eye-opening about what really happens during a cremation. Also, the choices are amazing and I was surprised about some aspects that were previously unknown to me. What really happens to a body after dying is graphically and lightly discussed.
Critically, yes, the book is about the funeral business, but I expected some mention of the donations of organs and bodies choosing to be donated for scientific research.
My concern was that this research problem is biased and does not really discuss the importance of closure during the grieving process. Though morbid, I found the book fascinating in the discussions.
This book is for anyone who is still undecided about whether to be cremated or to be buried. What are the customary practices for your area? CURTAINS allows you to visit the back rooms of the mortuary and to view the process from the business aspect. The knowledge about the customary practices allows each of us to best choose what is best for each of us.
Overall, I enjoyed this book of reflections about the business of dying, rather than a dying business.

Teri Davis May 22, 2010

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