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 76
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 this… See more details below

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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.”
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.”
The Grand Rapids Press
“Dense and powerful…Tiny jewels that, gathered together, create a stunning effect of pure, dazzling light.”
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.”
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.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565126565
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
03/29/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
296
Sales rank:
85,320
File size:
2 MB

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

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