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Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training, Tom Jokinen (Random House) 

Who knew death could be so entertaining?

CBC Radio producer Tom Jokinen quit his job to apprentice as an undertaker at a Winnipeg family-run funeral home. That's one way to get a book published: Western culture prefers to keep death at a safe distance, like meat processing, so when someone actually lifts the shroud, it's pretty damn exciting. But Jokinen makes it personal, and funny, too, mixing history, trends and facts with his own frank, philosophical troubles over death as a bloated, vulturous industry. He intuitively answers all the questions that you'd never ask aloud, like what happens to a body during and after cremation, and if there's an odour. Curtains doesn't have the emotional urgency of Russell Wagnersky's excellent firefighting memoir, Burning Down the House, but as far as life and death non-fiction goes, it's great reading.

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Vol 26, No 43
March 21, 2019

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