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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska » User review

More than memoir, more than essays... just more

  • Sep 29, 2011
On vacation in Alaska, and visiting the tiny town of Haines, I realized some places are just kinder to their local authors. In fact, maybe they’re just kinder to everyone—Haines is such a small town that everyone surely knows everyone else. And every store that sells anything sells books by local authors, including Heather Lende’s If you lived here, I’d know your name. After seeing that glorious moose gazing out from the cover often enough, I could no longer resist.

Heather Lende is an essayist for National Public Radio. She also knows how to clean and smoke fish, how to live off the land, and how to comfort families left behind after tragedy. Besides writing the local paper’s events column—Duly Noted—she writes obituaries, and in writing them gets to see beneath the surface of many local lives.

Apparently Haines might be the model for Northern Exposure—a TV series I loved long ago and would love to watch again. Moose really might walk down the street, as might bears. Snow and storms might cut communications, locking down boats and helicopters alike. Children might be born without the aid of a hospital, and might survive. Meanwhile insurance (and almost everything else) costs a fortune. Life is simpler and more easily lost in this place. But simplicity takes away the veneer that hides complexity, and Heather Lende’s quiet essays reveal a wealth of traditions, beliefs, relationships, religions and political persuasions, all bound together in community by the land.

Sometimes, reading this, I wished I could live in Haines. Sometimes I knew I’d never cope. But most of all
I’m glad to have had the chance to do more than just walk the street and gaze into shop windows. I’m glad so many stores carried this book; and I’m glad my husband bought it for me so I could carry it home to enjoy Heather Lende's captivating essays and wondrously different life.
Disclosure: My husband said it was time I read something just for me, but I thought I’d still write a review anyway.

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January 02, 2012
Interesting perspectives !
October 01, 2011
Luckily for us, you shared your reading experience with us! I agree that we should read something just for us but, it's fun to share, too :) I love small towns. My mom lives in one and it's a nice treat to help balance out my city girl lifestyle! Great review...
September 29, 2011
I've been a city girl all my life, so I'm always fascinated by stories of these towns! I may just have to check this out. Thanks, Sheila!
About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth ()
Ranked #41
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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About this book


Lende chronicles the various lives and deaths of the people of Haines, Alaska, an almost inaccessible hamlet 90 miles north of Juneau. In writing her social and obituary columns for Haines'sChilkat Valley News—some of which are included here—she blends reportage and humor. Lende has lived in Haines all her adult life and is well-known in town. She deftly illuminates local color: the sewer plant manager who rides a motorcycle and sports a ZZ Top beard, the high school principal who moonlights as a Roy Orbison impersonator, and the one-legged female gold miner. Lende covers death in her community in all its forms—accidental, intentional and inevitable—and notes, "writing about the dead helps me celebrate the living." While comic, the book also has some sensitive, insightful anecdotes. For example, Lende, a contributor to NPR'sMorning Edition, portrays the building of a coffin for a beloved mother by her youngest daughter; the sinking of a family boat with a tender farewell for a fearless fisherman; the mourning of a quirky, civic-minded "aging hippie"; and the goodbye to a Texas woman who hosted an annual Mississippi blues party. Lende's picture of an Alaskan small town is colorful and captivating.(June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.
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