I You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende

The charm of an isolated small town and its unique inhabitants create the Title details for If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende - Availableframework for this collection of essays and memories.

Haines, Alaska, is only about ninety miles away from Juneau, and might as well be a thousand.  Transportation between the two can only be done by boat ferry or airplane, with an occasional cruise trip stopping in to port.

The setting of Haines is idyllic – within the Inside Passage, bounded by mountains and sea – but the weather can be harsh and unforgiving, the risks of living off this kind of land sometimes deadly.

And yet, the people of Haines find a life and happiness, and even thrive there, creating their own culture, whether they are Native American, born in the town, or outsiders who just come to visit, and then stay for the next forty years.

For the author and her family, Haines is home, but an acquired one.  Lende was an east coast import, but by the time of this book’s publication (2005), she had lived in Alaska for twenty years, nearly all of them in Haines.

Getting things done in the middle of nowhere takes some ingenuity, whether it’s delivering a baby, dealing with a ruptured appendix, or adopting a child from another country (Bulgaria, to be specific).  The Lende family soon become a part of the town’s support system, learning the intricacies of smoking salmon, building a house, local potlucks, maneuvering the tight network of churches in the area, or surviving, with a smile, the vicissitudes of local politics.

Death is a steady and immediate part of this community, and Lende learns this first hand, as she writes obituaries for the local weekly paper.  She meets some of her most noteworthy acquaintances and friends when meeting them to write about a loved one who has passed.

If You Lived Here is funny and a quick read, the author’s approach that of an easy-going neighbor.  Haines’ unflappable denizens get through every funeral and school social with a wonderful deadpan humor that makes me think of the show Northern Exposure of many years ago.  And while the book is a little bit dated, there is still plenty here with which to laugh at and commiserate.

Find your ebook copy of this book here.

(William Hicks, Information Services)




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