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

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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 close-knit 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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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 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Heather Lende married her husband Chip right after college and took the great American road trip to Alaska. Falling in love with America's final frontier, they never left. After spending a year in Juneau, they moved to Haines, a fishing and tourist town, population 2400 give or take. Haines is small town USA in every sense of the word. The only difference is that Haines is in Alaska so it is more isolated than small town Wisconsin, for example. There are no traffic lights in the town, the first i Heather Lende married her husband Chip right after college and took the great American road trip to Alaska. Falling in love with America's final frontier, they never left. After spending a year in Juneau, they moved to Haines, a fishing and tourist town, population 2400 give or take. Haines is small town USA in every sense of the word. The only difference is that Haines is in Alaska so it is more isolated than small town Wisconsin, for example. There are no traffic lights in the town, the first ice skate on the frozen pond becomes an event the whole town shows up to, and it is mainly approachable by ferry only. As a mother to five children and one dog, Heather wanted a flexible job, so she became the obituary writer for the Chillkat Valley News, which is published once a week. Her stories received good press so she additionally writes for the Anchorage Daily News, the Christian Science Monitor, and is featured on NPR. This book is a collection of her writings, featuring the obituary columns and her Duly Noted feature. At first the book moved slowly as we get to know about life in rural Alaska (think Northern Exposure) because they read like columns as opposed to a book. Then, about a third of the way in, the pace picks up. I have gotten to know the Lende family and all of their community members. Their lives are interesting to me and I feel like I could live in Haines. As the obituary writer, Heather develops a close relationship with many citizens of Haines. I feel that this would have been inevitable given the nature of the community, where conservatives and liberals, natives and lower 48 transplants, and people of all walks of life live side by side. I recommend this book for people looking for a picture of small town America. It is part memoir, part travelogue, and just a wholesome book about what makes America a great place to live. By the end of the book, even I was interested in visiting Haines- for a summer solstice celebration or neighborhood barbecue.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live in small-town Alaska, this is the book for you! When we first visited Alaska ten years ago, we were quite bitten with the bug to move there and even went so far as to start scouring the real estate ads for homes for sale in Homer. This was in 2006, and the first thing we noticed were the large number of houses that were listed under foreclosure--a forerunner of the recession to come around the world! Now in the fall of 2016, I chose this book If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live in small-town Alaska, this is the book for you! When we first visited Alaska ten years ago, we were quite bitten with the bug to move there and even went so far as to start scouring the real estate ads for homes for sale in Homer. This was in 2006, and the first thing we noticed were the large number of houses that were listed under foreclosure--a forerunner of the recession to come around the world! Now in the fall of 2016, I chose this book to read while taking a land tour/sea cruise with Princess Cruises with my husband to celebrate our 40th anniversary (15 glorious days!) and it was the perfect choice as we visited many of the areas mentioned in this author's charming memoir. Heather Lende moved to Alaska with her husband, Chip, and the first of their five children, and settled in Haines in 1984. Chip now owns a lumberyard and Heather writes for the local weekly newspaper, the Chilkat Valley News, composing the obituaries. As the title implies, the town is small enough (around 2000 people) that everyone knows everyone and their business so that it feels like a close-knit, extended family, caring for each other. Because of her job, Heather confronts death more frequently than the rest of us probably do and seems to have come to terms with its inevitably, but still not with complete acceptance. She makes a point to go and talk to each bereaved family to learn a bit more about their deceased loved one--not just for the facts of their life to list in the obituary, but to try to get a feel for who they really were. One thing I am coming away with after reading this book is the danger of living in such a wild, remote place, where Mother Nature reigns supreme and can be cruel and merciless, where reaching emergency medical care in time is dependent on the weather. So the beauty and peace of living in a unspoiled location with breathtaking vistas and the freshest air imaginable must be weighed against the inherent risks. At one young man's funeral, a case of drowning, Heather looked around the room and counted twelve families who had also lost a child to tragic accident. How hard that must be for these families to endure! All that promise snuffed out in the blink of an eye. So for me, Alaska will remain a wonderful place to visit but...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tina Haigler

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice, relaxing read for me. I enjoyed Lende's writing style. It was very soothing and like talking to an old friend I haven't seen in a while catching me up on what's happened since I saw her last. Yes, it is full of death but not in a morbid way and no, it wasn't very exciting because most of the time life isn't. Instead it was down to earth and genuine. Well done Lende. Well done. I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice, relaxing read for me. I enjoyed Lende's writing style. It was very soothing and like talking to an old friend I haven't seen in a while catching me up on what's happened since I saw her last. Yes, it is full of death but not in a morbid way and no, it wasn't very exciting because most of the time life isn't. Instead it was down to earth and genuine. Well done Lende. Well done.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    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 f 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    A bit too mundane but some interesting bits about life in small-town Alaska. The author is the obituary writer in the town, which led to the most interesting bits. (Dang I need to change my Kindle settings - when I finished the book, my Kindle marked it as read in Goodreads and I never realized I hadn't written a review.) A bit too mundane but some interesting bits about life in small-town Alaska. The author is the obituary writer in the town, which led to the most interesting bits. (Dang I need to change my Kindle settings - when I finished the book, my Kindle marked it as read in Goodreads and I never realized I hadn't written a review.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Helen Dunn

    I'm surprised at the high star ratings for this book. There's nothing really wrong with it but I found it to be a complete bore. The author writes the obituaries for the local paper so many of her chapters revolve around the death of townsfolk. Where this could be a great opportunity to learn meaningful stories to me the chapters all fall flat and seemed like "Person X lived in a small town, was happy without a lot of money, loved the land" over and over and over. There are some ruminations about I'm surprised at the high star ratings for this book. There's nothing really wrong with it but I found it to be a complete bore. The author writes the obituaries for the local paper so many of her chapters revolve around the death of townsfolk. Where this could be a great opportunity to learn meaningful stories to me the chapters all fall flat and seemed like "Person X lived in a small town, was happy without a lot of money, loved the land" over and over and over. There are some ruminations about faith and spirituality which felt disjointed. Surprising, since you'd think that type of exploration would work with the overall theme of death. I also found the author never really told us enough about herself or her family. Even the chapter about adopting her daughter seemed cold and remote to me. The interspersed snippets from the local paper were annoying too. I guess the details of the local church BBQ were supposed to seem charming but without context of the town they just seemed hokey and made up. Do not recommend this one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I just loved this book! It is fun. A Prairie Home Companion for Alaska with all the nuances and eccentricities of character that make reading so enjoyable. Each chapter is a story unto itself, so this lends itself to those readers traveling on business, or those frazzled moms and dads, who need to pick up some reading before bedtime that will make them laugh, smile and relax. I hope the author continues with her writing for those of us on "mainland". I just loved this book! It is fun. A Prairie Home Companion for Alaska with all the nuances and eccentricities of character that make reading so enjoyable. Each chapter is a story unto itself, so this lends itself to those readers traveling on business, or those frazzled moms and dads, who need to pick up some reading before bedtime that will make them laugh, smile and relax. I hope the author continues with her writing for those of us on "mainland".

  8. 4 out of 5

    susie

    Based on what I heard from friends about this book, I was expecting something charming, uplifting, enchanting -- tales from a place I'd rather live. I think a better title for this book would have been If You Died Here, I'd Know Your Name because the stories start to take on the cadence of a speech by Mr. Weir on Freaks and Geeks: "I used to know a guy like that. Want to know what happened to him? HE DIED!" Lots of spaghetti dinners, lots of "God is good", lots of winding tales about coming to pe Based on what I heard from friends about this book, I was expecting something charming, uplifting, enchanting -- tales from a place I'd rather live. I think a better title for this book would have been If You Died Here, I'd Know Your Name because the stories start to take on the cadence of a speech by Mr. Weir on Freaks and Geeks: "I used to know a guy like that. Want to know what happened to him? HE DIED!" Lots of spaghetti dinners, lots of "God is good", lots of winding tales about coming to people's houses after loved ones died to get the facts about their lives (I would say about 1/3 of the deaths portrayed in this book were about kids which made it especially depressing), and some of the most gruesome, disgusting hunting recollections I've ever read. I actually felt nauseous reading some of this: "The goat stumbled from the impact of the bullet, slumped, and started to fall on his knees, then leapt forward right off his perch, bouncing off the rocks three times before slamming dead onto a ledge..." "[the hide] peeled away smooth and dry, like a paper label off a jar." "Without the fur covering, goat legs look almost human..." "Slicing steaming meat off bones....I dug around in the warm muscle tissue until I could find a bone, then gripped it with one hand and cut the flesh off it with the other." It was hard for me to read this book and not judge the author with things like when she says the plays in her town were better than seeing Cats or The Sound of Music on Broadway in NYC, or when she talks about having 7 kids in this city without a hospital, one of which is an adopted daughter she named Stoli, after the vodka. Or every time she talks about the conservative, narrow-minded politics of her town but then excuses it and drops it with a "I still love my neighbors! I wouldn't want to live anywhere else!" I mean, seriously? Give me a break. I really wanted this book to be over about 100 pages in. It wasn't for me. My rating on here is generous because the book wasn't badly written, just frustrating to read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    I wanted to like this book. As I read it, though, the word that overwhelmed everything else was smug. "We're better than everyone else, because we live far, far away from medical care. We're better than everyone else, because we all take care of each other." Fine, except that the actual stories she tells belie the smug attitude...... for more, please visit my blog - Wine and Proses! I wanted to like this book. As I read it, though, the word that overwhelmed everything else was smug. "We're better than everyone else, because we live far, far away from medical care. We're better than everyone else, because we all take care of each other." Fine, except that the actual stories she tells belie the smug attitude...... for more, please visit my blog - Wine and Proses!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Hannigan

    I used to read the weekly articles Heather wrote for the Anchorage Daily News. I didn't always agree with her politics, but I always enjoyed the hometown-sey feeling of her articles. It appears Heather got the idea for this book from her job of writing obituaries for the local newspaper...and each chapter seems to go off from getting ready to write someone's obit. This book is like reading the musings of an old friend. I have friends in Haines (who weren't mentioned by name in the book) and I de I used to read the weekly articles Heather wrote for the Anchorage Daily News. I didn't always agree with her politics, but I always enjoyed the hometown-sey feeling of her articles. It appears Heather got the idea for this book from her job of writing obituaries for the local newspaper...and each chapter seems to go off from getting ready to write someone's obit. This book is like reading the musings of an old friend. I have friends in Haines (who weren't mentioned by name in the book) and I definitely think you see the world through different eyes when you live in one of the many small corners of Alaska. Heather's sense of humor and her zest for life is definitely felt in the pages of this book. Heather is a woman I would love to visit with someday.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

    Thankfully I got this one from the library. It was ok. Some parts were interesting in a voyeuristic sort of way. She tells about small town life and when she lists ways people in the town have died (she writes obits) it is interesting because I don't live in a place where people regularly die in plane crashes or boating accidents. On the other hand, a lot of the book reads like a list or like an old woman with dementia recalling snips of stories from long past. Sometimes that can be engaging and Thankfully I got this one from the library. It was ok. Some parts were interesting in a voyeuristic sort of way. She tells about small town life and when she lists ways people in the town have died (she writes obits) it is interesting because I don't live in a place where people regularly die in plane crashes or boating accidents. On the other hand, a lot of the book reads like a list or like an old woman with dementia recalling snips of stories from long past. Sometimes that can be engaging and other times your mind is drifting off wishing your visit were over.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lesley Handel

    I just didn't connect with this book. I just didn't connect with this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    3.5 stars I have been reading some pretty intense war-oriented historical fiction so I wanted to read something a little more on the lighter side than violence, death and senseless killing. If You Lived Here... is light a read but there is good amount of the book that focuses on death. Oh well... Lende does a good job in writing about the her life and the lives of people who live in Haines, Alaska. The talk about death? Well, Lende writes obituaries for the local newspaper so she gets to hear abou 3.5 stars I have been reading some pretty intense war-oriented historical fiction so I wanted to read something a little more on the lighter side than violence, death and senseless killing. If You Lived Here... is light a read but there is good amount of the book that focuses on death. Oh well... Lende does a good job in writing about the her life and the lives of people who live in Haines, Alaska. The talk about death? Well, Lende writes obituaries for the local newspaper so she gets to hear about all the deaths in the area around Haines. Haines is a small coastal town where the primary industries are timber, fishing and tourism. A good part of the transportation is by boat and small plane. So it is no surprise fatalities from boats sinking, plane crashes and accidental drownings are not an uncommon occurrence. Especially, when you take into consideration Alaska's infamous weather. It is made clear that the people who live in Haines is because they want to. They offset the expensive cost of living to subsistence living (fishing, hunting and gardening) and scratching out a living any way they can. Haines and Southeast Alaska in general is some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere. Also, many people (who can be somewhat eccentric) who live in Haines find more populated areas more of a hassle than living in wild Alaska. Haines (population 2500) is not without its controversies that crop from time to time. Lende talks about high school bullying, gay rights, religion, Native Alaskans among other topics. Some of the stories are lighthearted, thoughtful, and even funny in parts. Others are kind of mundane. I don't want to discount the importance of the stories to the author. Just after awhile the small town novelty wears off. And, as I mentioned in the beginning, quite a bit of ruminations are about death and dying. As heartfelt as the topic can be, a little bit goes a long way. The good news is that the book goes by fast so as not to get overly bogged down in any one thing. If you want an easy reading thoughtful book, you might like this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Huston

    A collection of short narratives and news blips from Haines, Alaska, as written by Heather Lende. Lende wrote obituaries and short articles for the local newspaper, the Chilkat Valley News. Most of the stories in here are about death, not surprisingly, but there are some that are funny, and almost all of them are heartening, showing a community where everyone knows everyone else. The book isn't that long, and can be easily read in an evening or two. I liked this one, finding it most interesting A collection of short narratives and news blips from Haines, Alaska, as written by Heather Lende. Lende wrote obituaries and short articles for the local newspaper, the Chilkat Valley News. Most of the stories in here are about death, not surprisingly, but there are some that are funny, and almost all of them are heartening, showing a community where everyone knows everyone else. The book isn't that long, and can be easily read in an evening or two. I liked this one, finding it most interesting when Lende discussed the Tlinglit peoples who lived in and around Haines. It's not a book for everyone, but if you are interested in Alaska, this should do nicely. Four stars overall and recommended. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/review/if_you...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    This work of non-fiction, is subtitled: “News from Small-Town Alaska.” Lende is an NPR commentator who lives in Haines, Alaska and also writes the obituaries for the local paper. Each chapter begins with Duly Noted - snippets of news about the residents and happenings in Haines. These serve to set up a sort of theme or connecting idea for the stories that will follow in that chapter. Each chapter spotlights at least one of the residents of Haines who has died and how that person’s life contribut This work of non-fiction, is subtitled: “News from Small-Town Alaska.” Lende is an NPR commentator who lives in Haines, Alaska and also writes the obituaries for the local paper. Each chapter begins with Duly Noted - snippets of news about the residents and happenings in Haines. These serve to set up a sort of theme or connecting idea for the stories that will follow in that chapter. Each chapter spotlights at least one of the residents of Haines who has died and how that person’s life contributed to the richness of Lende’s and other residents’ life in Haines. You would think that a book focusing on obituaries would be morbid or dark. It isn’t. It’s a gentle read. Lende is not writing mere “death notices” – those ever-so-brief paid notices we find in the big-city classified section. She’s writing obituaries – crafted from the stories that friends, family, acquaintances, even near-strangers tell about the person who died and their memories of him/her. In the process the reader learns a lot about life in Haines – fishing, hunting, bears, eagles, moose, hockey, skating in the moonlight, planting a garden, making the perfect egg salad sandwich, raising chickens, raising a family, and even politics. It isn’t great literature, but it was the right read for a long holiday weekend spent in a small town in upper Wisconsin.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kim-Lost-In-A-Book

    Admittedly I have a deep love and fondness for small towns, so that could have colored my opinion a little of this book. Heather writes well and tells us stories of the people living and dying in the small town of Haines, Alaska. Heather is a columnist and obituary writer and I think it would be a pleasure and an honor if I was ever fortunate enough to have her write my obituary. But the book isn't all about dying, as a matter of fact it's really all about living. She tells us of life in her sma Admittedly I have a deep love and fondness for small towns, so that could have colored my opinion a little of this book. Heather writes well and tells us stories of the people living and dying in the small town of Haines, Alaska. Heather is a columnist and obituary writer and I think it would be a pleasure and an honor if I was ever fortunate enough to have her write my obituary. But the book isn't all about dying, as a matter of fact it's really all about living. She tells us of life in her small town; all the good, bad and ugly of it. Okay maybe not too much ugly but she certainly doesn't sugar-coat anything either. While there are some similarities to life in the Lower 48, for the most part life is very different in Haines. Weather, transportation and wildlife probably being the biggest differences. But the people who live there seem to take it all in stride. They seem to have this laid back, take it as it comes kind of mentality that most people usually use to describe "beach folk". I enjoyed getting a glimpse into this life and it only solidified and strengthened my love and fondness for small towns.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    The review from the LA Times captures the essence of this book: "Part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott . . ." The reader will laugh and cry but will come away with a real sense of life in a small town from a writer who has a sensitive and interesting perspective about her Haines, Alaska, neighbors and their backgrounds. Heather Lende discribes her life as an obituary writer for her local paper and how she comes to know her neighbors and the town she chose to raise her family. The wilderness is ju The review from the LA Times captures the essence of this book: "Part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott . . ." The reader will laugh and cry but will come away with a real sense of life in a small town from a writer who has a sensitive and interesting perspective about her Haines, Alaska, neighbors and their backgrounds. Heather Lende discribes her life as an obituary writer for her local paper and how she comes to know her neighbors and the town she chose to raise her family. The wilderness is just outside her back door. She describes how she, her husband, children and neighbors make a living, live and sometimes die due to the harsh conditions in and around Haines. However, even with the sometimes dangerous circumstances of locale and employment, she provides insight and hope in happy and sad times. A gentle read from a very perceptive writer. I like this book a lot; it will be a birthday or Christmas to several friends.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Juls

    I'm now re-reading this for the 5th time. I love it! I heard the author read an excerpt on NPR and had to get it. I gave it to a friend to read before he went to the same small town and he said it was spot-on. This book is non-fiction and is written by Heather Lende. She moved to a small town in Alaska with her college sweetheart/husband right after graduating. Her descriptions of the relationships, but most especially of the surrounding environment and its affects on the lives of the people in I'm now re-reading this for the 5th time. I love it! I heard the author read an excerpt on NPR and had to get it. I gave it to a friend to read before he went to the same small town and he said it was spot-on. This book is non-fiction and is written by Heather Lende. She moved to a small town in Alaska with her college sweetheart/husband right after graduating. Her descriptions of the relationships, but most especially of the surrounding environment and its affects on the lives of the people in her town are so vivid it ties up your emotions. Sorry for the run-on sentence, Becks. Read it, peeps!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    If you enjoyed the 1990's TV show Northern Exposure, you will probably like this book, which is a compillation of short stories about the residents of the tiny town of Haines, Alaska. Resident and writer Heather Lende pens a sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous but always entertaining glimpse into life and death in this secluded wilderness paradise. As with all compillations, some of the stories are better then others, and some feature a little too much bleeding-heart sensibilities for my perso If you enjoyed the 1990's TV show Northern Exposure, you will probably like this book, which is a compillation of short stories about the residents of the tiny town of Haines, Alaska. Resident and writer Heather Lende pens a sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous but always entertaining glimpse into life and death in this secluded wilderness paradise. As with all compillations, some of the stories are better then others, and some feature a little too much bleeding-heart sensibilities for my personal taste, but there's nothing too heavy-handed. This is a book book better savored in small doses, with a chapter or two read at a time between other books.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Valentine

    This is a charming collection of articles about a woman who moved from an urban life to a small town in Alaska. It started out really well but got a bit tedious in places. Still a worthwhile read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Corielle

    That's basically what I learned from Heather Lende's If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska. Granted, the author writes the obits for her local newspaper, so many of her stories lead back to that, but still. Plane crashes seem insanely common, along with people drowning on fishing boats and falling off mountains and all the other dangers associated with living in the middle of nowhere. Plus there's the fact that the nearest hospital to Lende's small town of Haines, Al That's basically what I learned from Heather Lende's If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska. Granted, the author writes the obits for her local newspaper, so many of her stories lead back to that, but still. Plane crashes seem insanely common, along with people drowning on fishing boats and falling off mountains and all the other dangers associated with living in the middle of nowhere. Plus there's the fact that the nearest hospital to Lende's small town of Haines, Alaska, is about 4 hours away -- in Canada. And that's assuming the weather is fairly clear -- when Lende's son was on the brink of a ruptured appendix during a blizzard, it took them almost 8 hours to arrive at the ER. Now, there do seem to be some upsides to living in a town with 2400 people (about 1/3 of whom don't live there year round). I really liked the stories about getting together for salmon canning or goat hunting or fishing on a trawlboat. Overall, however, I found If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name mostly unpleasant, for two main reasons. First of all the writing wasn't very good; it tended to meander and jump back and forth without a lot of reason. Lende writes for her local paper, but she's hardly an accomplished writer and it shows. Second of all, the general tone of the book seemed so smug and superior that I found myself getting angry with it. Lende, and most of her acquaintances, identify as Christian and conservative. Fine, whatever floats your boat. However, it comes up a lot in the novel about what good Christians they are -- despite the fact that Lende herself admits that her town and its surrounding areas tend to be very unwelcoming to anyone different than themselves -- the environmentalists who oppose the logging and fishing trades (anyone liberal, in fact, is how it comes off) as well as homosexuals. In fact, when some members of the town try to stage a workshop to discuss people's "differences" (aka, some people are gay), it's completely and totally shut down. And they weren't even approaching the issue as "some people are born this way". She flat out says that the workshop was only meant to teach people (students mostly) how to "handle" when people are different, and they couldn't even get that approved. Doesn't seem too much like a town worth bragging about, in my opinion. Maybe I took greater offense than I should have, as a liberal non-Christian, but there seemed to be a lot of competing themes in the book -- like, Alaska is such a wonderful homey friendly place to live unless you fall into any of these categories. I enjoyed some of the stories, and the description of how they go about taking care of things in such isolation -- the author, for instance, had to get on a plane for every one of her prenatal visits for her third and fourth children because their town doctor could no longer afford his medical malpractice insurance -- was interesting, but by the end I was pretty annoyed by the author's style of writing and had trouble remembering what I liked so much when I started reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Magpie67

    A story worth investigating for anyone who lives in a small town, lived in a small town or is thinking of moving to a small town. Expect to have your heart strings pulled with each chapter as this author writes obituaries and like her.... I've had to proof quite a few obits at the newspaper office I work for. I would never have guessed I would attend so many funerals of so many ages and become so entwined with so many individuals after moving here.... in Iowa. Small town life is different when t A story worth investigating for anyone who lives in a small town, lived in a small town or is thinking of moving to a small town. Expect to have your heart strings pulled with each chapter as this author writes obituaries and like her.... I've had to proof quite a few obits at the newspaper office I work for. I would never have guessed I would attend so many funerals of so many ages and become so entwined with so many individuals after moving here.... in Iowa. Small town life is different when the town occupies 1600 folks. Maybe it isn't quite Mayberry these days because crime does now happen outside the big cities, but there is a sense of togetherness that a huge amount of us have whether during a funeral, at a basketball game or football game or at any of the local fundraisers and or dinners that are held at each church. Many attend all the dinners even though they are not members. Our love for the town and the community is strong! Heather Lende has the unique ability to draw one into her chapters and make you fall in love with characters you haven't met and the desire to visit due to her cover and or her descriptions of Haines, Alaska. I will state, in print.... Alaska is on my bucket list but during the summer months only. I'm not about the snow here nor will I be about the snow there. I loved her duly noted columns because they made me laugh, made me smile and made me care about the stories. We have small town news being reported in a few other papers and they are so boring... So and so were visiting so and so and they had dinner. Blah, blah, blah. Heather's had style, flair, informative news and humor. I did know I wasn't going to get away without crying more tears when I came upon the last chapter.. Yes, I read this book over several days because each chapter was emotional, but the last one was a doozy. RIP Good Dog Carl. A book for all ages! Thanks Heather Lende

  23. 4 out of 5

    AdultNonFiction Teton County Library

    Teton County Library Call No: 979.82 LENDE Mark A's rating: 4 stars On a road trip to Alaska along the famous Alaska Highway, I had the chance to visit Haines, Alaska. I didn’t take the 100 mile detour that day. After reading Heather Lende’s book about life in Haines, I wish that I had. I have visited other small Alaskan towns like it though. I still see in my mind the steep forested mountains that come all the way down to the water. I hear the stories of the people of those towns that seem to hav Teton County Library Call No: 979.82 LENDE Mark A's rating: 4 stars On a road trip to Alaska along the famous Alaska Highway, I had the chance to visit Haines, Alaska. I didn’t take the 100 mile detour that day. After reading Heather Lende’s book about life in Haines, I wish that I had. I have visited other small Alaskan towns like it though. I still see in my mind the steep forested mountains that come all the way down to the water. I hear the stories of the people of those towns that seem to have been living there forever, but most came from someplace else. They were going to someplace, Alaska. Some were escaping someplace, but they didn’t always want to talk about that part. Some of them fished for a living and some worked in the local library. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name explores that part of our land and tells some of those stories with a very personal touch. Be prepared to be touched. Suzy's review ****'s I read this book while I was on vacation in rural Vermont, where I grew up. My friend, who is a local bartender commented, "I heard you were in town!" I laughed because news travels fast in a small town, and Heather Lende says everyone in Haines reads the news to make sure they "got the story right." The author writes obituaries for the local newspaper, but explores the lives of the people in her small community. As Mark said, Lende's stories touch your heart. I found myself crying several times while reading this book. Life in rugged, rural Alaska creates and attracts characters that are larger than life. Lende tells their stories with dignity, and compassion. This book would be a great gift for anyone who enjoys reading about small town life, people, their feelings, and resilience. Outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventurers will enjoy reading about the landscape, and surrounding forces of nature.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    A story of family, community, life and death in Alaska!! A pretty decent novel. From dust jacket: 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 community affairs. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for her local newspaper. If anyone knows the goings-on in this close-knit town-from births to weddin A story of family, community, life and death in Alaska!! A pretty decent novel. From dust jacket: 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 community affairs. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for her local newspaper. If anyone knows the goings-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 fisherman, 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."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mandi

    Her essays make me want to move to Alaska, or at least a really rural town surrounded by natural beauty. She is realistic about it though and depicts the good with the bad (like all the political division). She shares very openly about herself and that made for very honest stories as well. This is an excellent book to read when you need a book you can read, set down, and return to at a random time. Each chapter is its own independent essay and so you don't have to remember the details of one ess Her essays make me want to move to Alaska, or at least a really rural town surrounded by natural beauty. She is realistic about it though and depicts the good with the bad (like all the political division). She shares very openly about herself and that made for very honest stories as well. This is an excellent book to read when you need a book you can read, set down, and return to at a random time. Each chapter is its own independent essay and so you don't have to remember the details of one essay to enjoy the next one. The events in each chapter are tied together by a common theme and I really enjoyed how she related seemingly unrelated events. I would consider this the richest aspect of the writing and it kept each chapter very interesting. My only complaint is that, because the chapters really are just essays and there is no chronology connecting one part to the next, I felt like I had these great moments of relating to her and her life and then that essay would be over. I would connect to her and her family and the people of her community again in the next essay, but then the essay would end. The worst part about ending a book you enjoy is the feeling of not getting to hear anymore from the characters you bonded with and with this book I got that feeling at the end of each chapter.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelegg

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was one of the sweetest books I've ever read. I loved Ms. Lende's descriptions of small town Alaska and the people who lived there with her. She works at the newspaper and writes the obituaries. She had such insight into death, people's experiences with the dead and sweet experiences with the dead people's loved ones. The best story in the book came when her own dog she'd had for many years died and her devastation from it. I loved her quoe from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Dirge without Musi This was one of the sweetest books I've ever read. I loved Ms. Lende's descriptions of small town Alaska and the people who lived there with her. She works at the newspaper and writes the obituaries. She had such insight into death, people's experiences with the dead and sweet experiences with the dead people's loved ones. The best story in the book came when her own dog she'd had for many years died and her devastation from it. I loved her quoe from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Dirge without Music": "I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been time out of mind. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned." This was a wonderful book by a wonderful writer. I'm so glad I read it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book is a wonderful collection of short stories about life in small town Alaska. I was worried being a TOTAL softy that a book written by the town obituary writer was going to drown me in tears or leave me feeling exceptionally depressed, but thankfully her stories were much more about the beauty of life than the pain of death. Lende does a masterful job of weaving past and present into her stories of small town life. I don't have any desire to live in an isolated small town in Alaska, but This book is a wonderful collection of short stories about life in small town Alaska. I was worried being a TOTAL softy that a book written by the town obituary writer was going to drown me in tears or leave me feeling exceptionally depressed, but thankfully her stories were much more about the beauty of life than the pain of death. Lende does a masterful job of weaving past and present into her stories of small town life. I don't have any desire to live in an isolated small town in Alaska, but reading this book made me understand why others might choose too. The love Lende has for her community and her town shine through her simplistic yet beautiful writing. A very enjoyable read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I really enjoyed this book. It's been sitting on my shelf forever (snagged it at a library sale based on my interest in Alaska) and now seemed like a great time to read it as we're planning to head to Alaska this summer. The author touches on a bunch of topics in the various chapters, that read like individual essays. I appreciate her honesty and commitment to her role as the obituary writer for such a small, close knit community. I especially enjoyed her stories about her own family- goat huntin I really enjoyed this book. It's been sitting on my shelf forever (snagged it at a library sale based on my interest in Alaska) and now seemed like a great time to read it as we're planning to head to Alaska this summer. The author touches on a bunch of topics in the various chapters, that read like individual essays. I appreciate her honesty and commitment to her role as the obituary writer for such a small, close knit community. I especially enjoyed her stories about her own family- goat hunting, moose encounters and the brutal realities about living so far from high tech medical care when you are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    I thoroughly enjoyed this little book! The author is a contributor to NPR's Morning Edition. She writes about life (and death) in Haines, Alaska, a small town a long ways from anywhere. She writes the obits for the town newspaper, but relates with great humor the quirks and antics of the characters who live there. Lende also writes with sensitivity joys and tragedies of living in a close and isolated community. I thoroughly enjoyed this little book! The author is a contributor to NPR's Morning Edition. She writes about life (and death) in Haines, Alaska, a small town a long ways from anywhere. She writes the obits for the town newspaper, but relates with great humor the quirks and antics of the characters who live there. Lende also writes with sensitivity joys and tragedies of living in a close and isolated community.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Luppino

    Life in Haines This was an interesting collection of life (and death) in Haines, Alaska. Stories from the local obituary writer breathe life into the town. I especially enjoyed it because of traveling there this summer. I recognized and knew many places. It is as beautiful and enchanting as she says and more. The writing was a little off, so if it wasn't for my connection I probably would have rated 3 stars, but a good book full of stories from another way of life nonetheless. Life in Haines This was an interesting collection of life (and death) in Haines, Alaska. Stories from the local obituary writer breathe life into the town. I especially enjoyed it because of traveling there this summer. I recognized and knew many places. It is as beautiful and enchanting as she says and more. The writing was a little off, so if it wasn't for my connection I probably would have rated 3 stars, but a good book full of stories from another way of life nonetheless.

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