If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska

3.9 77
by Heather Lende

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Tiny Haines, Alaska, is ninety miles north of Juneau, accessible mainly by water or air—and only when the weather is good. There's no traffic light and no mail delivery; people can vanish without a trace and funerals are a community affair. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for her local newspaper. If anyone knows the going-on in


Tiny Haines, Alaska, is ninety miles north of Juneau, accessible mainly by water or air—and only when the weather is good. There's no traffic light and no mail delivery; people can vanish without a trace and funerals are a community affair. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for her local newspaper. If anyone knows the going-on in this close-knit town—from births to weddings to funerals—she does.

Whether contemplating the mysterious death of eccentric Speedy Joe, who wore nothing but a red union suit and a hat he never took off, not even for a haircut; researching the details of a one-legged lady gold miner's adventurous life; worrying about her son's first goat-hunting expedition; observing the awe-inspiring Chilkat Bald Eagle Festival; or ice skating in the shadow of glacier-studded mountains, Lende's warmhearted style brings us inside her small-town life. We meet her husband, Chip, who owns the local lumber yard; their five children; and a colorful assortment of quirky friends and neighbors, including aging hippies, salty fishermen, native Tlingit Indians, and volunteer undertakers—as well as the moose, eagles, sea lions, and bears with whom they share this wild and perilous land.

Like Bailey White's tales of Southern life or Garrison Keillor's reports from the Midwest, NPR commentator Heather Lende's take on her offbeat Alaskan hometown celebrates life in a dangerous and breathtakingly beautiful place.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Lende offers touching stories about neighbors with whom she shares wedding celebrations, potluck dinners, tears for missing fishermen—all the joys and sorrows of family life in a remote town.”
Los Angeles Times
“Part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott…NPR commentator Heather Lende…subtly remind[s] readers to embrace each day, each opportunity, each life that touches our own and to note the beauty of it all.”
People Magazine
“Lende offers touching stories about neighbors with whom she shares wedding celebrations, potluck dinners, tears for missing fishermen—all the joys and sorrows of family life in a remote town.”
USA Today
“Who knew a writer could find so much human drama, simple pleasure and thorny issues in such a remote place? If you like the stories on Prairie Home Companion or Northern Exposure, you’ll love some real news from small-town Alaska.”
The Grand Rapids Press
“Dense and powerful…Tiny jewels that, gathered together, create a stunning effect of pure, dazzling light.”
Publishers Weekly
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's Chilkat 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's Morning 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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dispatches from small-town U.S.A. (pop: 2,400, traffic lights: 0, avg. temp: cold) by the local writer of obits and other matters of social interest. Hailing originally from the East Coast of the lower 48, Lende has spent his last two decades at home in the village of Haines, in the Chilkat Valley of the southeast tail of our northernmost state. There, she tends to husband Chip, proprietor of the lumberyard, their five children, and assorted neighbors and animals. Travel out of Haines, which folks are loath to do, is possible only by intermittent ferry or frightening flights in small aircraft. People die young there, whether flying, fishing at sea or hunting. Or they live to be funny old characters. At the end, whether young or old, whether they led good lives or not, all are accorded Lende's respectful death notices. In addition to writing for the local paper of choice, she provides commentary for public radio, runs for the school board, attends fund-raising events and auctions to benefit townsfolk, takes a weekend trip to Vancouver and travels to Bulgaria to adopt a daughter. She participates in community theater, spots a possible spaceship and dances to a Cajun band from Juneau. There's also hunting above the tree line and flying above the glaciers. Interspersed throughout the text are extracts from "Duly Noted," Lende's journalistic reports of the quotidian events of Haines. Mostly, though, she concerns herself with family and community in the Last Frontier State-and, one might say, everywhere else, too. Written with ease and empathy, this is both about maintaining a household in Alaska and about being at home in the world. Regarding nature, life and death, it's an agreeable workabout living in a pretty place, likely to increase tourism, if not emigration, to Haines, Alaska. Homespun warmth in a cold climate.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A remote American small town and its people—the upstanding citizens, the goofy characters, the fast friends, the avowed enemies—united by their zip code. [A] beautiful, funny, compassionate story....When, now and again, your reading is interrupted by tears, they will be the sweet sort."
—Michael Perry, author of Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time

Meet the Author

Heather Lende has contributed essays and commentary to NPR, the New York Times, and National Geographic Traveler, among other newspapers and magazines, and is a former contributing editor at Woman’s Day. A columnist for the Alaska Dispatch News, she writes obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News and is the author of Find the Good, If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, and Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. Her website is www.heatherlende.com.

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If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: Comings and Goings in Small-Town Alaska 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 reviews.
SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect summer read! I found it introspective without being too sappy. It's not a gripping page turner, yet it's a perfect light read for vacation. Each chapter is an essay, roughly organized under one main idea. She often has an experience that prompts thinking in other areas, and the essays have a pleasant meandering construction that eventually ties things back to the main idea. The book is about her family, life, and thoughts in this small Alaskan town. I also am a Mom who lives in a very cold, rural area and I felt that if she lived in my neighborhood we'd be friends. She espouses traditional values of home and family, yet through the eyes of a liberal. Very refreshing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My book club chose this book for our April book choice. After thorougly enjoying the book I contacted the author. She responded and did a conference call for our book club. She was such a nice, genuine person. It made me want to read the book again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A small wonderful town our Aunt owned The Record Store.Everything the Author writes has been so fun to read and our own raft trip on the Tat was fantastic leaving from Haines. Thank you for the great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an entertaining and heartwarming book that gives you a taste of living in a small town in Alaska. I love the author's style of writing! I've shared the book with several of my friends and all have enjoyed it. Highly recommended.
HappyReader-inSLC More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I bought it because I have been reading Heather's stories in Woman's Day Magazine. It is great to read about Alaska and the things going on in her town. I love her writing style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heather Lende and her husband came out to Alaska on their honeymoon and stayed. She writes events and obituaries fir the small weedly newspaper. There are a couple of items from her events column interspersed with living in such a remote place. She talks of her friends and neighbors and the good times and tragedies and everything in between and why they choose to live in Haines Alaska. Moving, inspiring, all the cliches. A don't miss read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This books cover and title caught my eye. We had spent a summer in Alaska camping in many wilderness and some not so wild campgrounds throughout the state. We found it to be fascinating, and I wanted to read more about our 49th state. The book is very well written, and the farther you get into it, the more interesting it gets. While I expected stories of snow, and wildlife, I was unprepared to read that the author's family had gone to an exhibition of Dale Chihuly's glass art. I was surprised to read about the many medical hardships the population of Haines faces. It was startling to realize that summer jobs for your daughters may find them not at Starbucks but on board small fishing boats with a 20 year old captain facing wild seas and dangerous storms.If you want an interesting read, one you'll find hard to put down, read If You LIved Here, I'd Know Your Name.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Lende is a wonderful writer, and I enjoyed this book. There are stories of people she's known, slices of life in a small, close-knit community where every one knows just about everyone else. These are people who help one another and live their lives the way they want to, without stepping on other people to get what they want. I have a feeling that this is what life is supposed to be like. I hope Ms. Lende writes another book someday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't be surprised if you want to travel to Haines, Alaska after you have read this. The author makes life there sound very appealing. Her description of friends and neighbors make them sound like people you would want to know too. Kindness, generousity and survival skills abound in the citizens of this community.
janmt More than 1 year ago
The writer's chapters each cover many subjects which are of great interest to many people, especially those in small towns. Each chapter also has 3 to 4 articles she has written for the newspaper in Haines, Alaska. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town will find these humorous, somewhat mundane comings and goings of the people in the community. A great affirmation of small town America!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Even thought there is a huge emphasis on death, the author treated the subject with such thoughtfulness and spirituality it was not at all morbid. I learned so much about Alaska, the Native culture and people in general from this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Small town living & surviving takes a special type of person. This is a wonderful story that left no douvt in my mind that the author really lives this life. Wonderful story.
avidreader70SE More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading how people in a small community live and work together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Lende tells compelling stories both about the people and the land she loves. There is sadness and loss but also companionship, acceptance, support, lots of work and fun. She makes the enormous work of living in Haines seem well worth the effort. She also provides a great deal of evidence to support the adjective of "quirky" so often applied to Alaskans. She is a very good writer and I enjoyed this book immensely.
Cats505 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! It took me back to my younger days in a small town - somehow they are the same! I sent it to friends who also expressed great satisfaction with it....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hard life story, funny and sad
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I loved this book. I grew up in Alaska but have not been back in years. This book made me laugh and made me homesick. There is no place like Alaska.
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