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

by Heather Lende

Paperback, 2006




Algonquin Books (2006), Edition: Later Printing, 281 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Travel. Nonfiction. HTML:�??Part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott, essayist and NPR commentator Heather Lende introduces readers to life in the town of Haines, Alaska . . . subtly reminding readers to embrace each day, each opportunity, each life that touches our own and to note the beauty of it all.�?� �??The Los Angeles Times 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 breathtaki… (more)


½ (174 ratings; 3.6)

User reviews

LibraryThing member banjo123
This is a series of essays about life in small town Alaska. Of course, there are many stories of neighbors banding together to help each other out; spaghetti feeds, canning salmon, etc. It could be way too cutesy—but it isn’t. Lende is honest, and self-reflective. I was going to rate this 3 or
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3 ½ stars, based on the writing, but in the end, I enjoyed reading the book so much I am moving it up to 4 stars.
I was intrigued by this description of a way of life so different than mine. I love the outdoors—but at heart I am a city girl. Haines is a town of 2400 in a remote location in the inner passage. Drop-dead gorgeous-- and with lots of perils. One of the most harrowing parts of the book is a description of a 5-6 hour drive to Whitehorse, through a snowstorm, with Lende’s son who had acute appendicitis. (They made it in the nick of time.)
From reading this book, life in Haines is super-dangerous. Maybe it’s because Lende is an obituary writer, but there is death after death, many of them deaths of young people engaged in outdoor pursuits. Yet Lende still allowed her own daughters to work in a fishing boat, because she wanted them to be a part of the place. I admire Lende for this, but I don’t understand it.
Another strong part of the book is her description of living in a small town, where everyone is like family, and you have to get along, despite strong differences of opinion. This is so different than my life—I live in an especially liberal part of Portland, Oregon, so seldom encounter any non-tree-huggers. In one chapter, Lende describes trying, unsuccessfully, to put together an anti-homophobia workshop after a bullying incident at the local high school. Lende was frustrated, but I was heartened by her brave attempts to engage her conservative neighbors in this fight.
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LibraryThing member olgalijo
I was pleasantly surprised by "If you lived here I'd know your name". Living in Juneau I had assumed that this book was not so god, but it sold well as a tourist charmer. Well, I was wrong. Every single Haines scene described is engrossing in itself.
LibraryThing member edwin.gleaves
This is not really a travel book, but an inside view of what it is like to live (and die) in small-town Alaska--all this without descending into sentimentality. The most engaging book I have read in a long time.
LibraryThing member NellieMc
Very warming account of the author's life in a very small, but immensely scenic town in Alaska. The author is an obituary writer and spends a lot of the book talking about the citizens who have passed away, but for the most part it is a joyful book since their lives, as described, are interesting
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and worth noting. I did find that her perspective was a bit pollyannish; there seemed to be reference to a large number of young adults killed in car accidents and I can't believe that all the citizens are quite as pleasant (though eccentric) as she describes. Still, she obviously loves the town, accepts what to many of us would be hardships as pleasant challenges, and has raised a close family. Interesting person, interesting life.
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LibraryThing member alaskabookworm
A fabulous collection of vignettes about life in small town Alaska. Lende is a well-known and well-liked columnist in Alaska. In her home town of Haines, she is also the local Obituary writer. This is her first book, and it faithfully captures the essence of living in this crazy beautiful dangerous
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place. It is full of the dichotomy of living in Alaska: frequent untimely deaths measured against abundant and glorious life. It takes a special breed to love living in Alaska, especially a remote town like Haines, and Lende introduces us to many of those folks. Honest and thoughtful, this is a book that is a meditation on life, death and a generous dose of love.
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LibraryThing member judieharren
Pleasant read recommended for fans of Northern Exposure.
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Ms. Lende shares snippets of stories of her neighbors and friends and along the way reflects on life and love and death. She also shares a good bit of life in the small town of Haines, Alaska - which sounds much like many small towns but with the added adventure of being isolated and filled with
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people who have strong opinions about a great many things. Good read.
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LibraryThing member clue
I thought this was great! Heather Linde and her husband moved to small town Alaska in 1984. In her book she tells about their life there and also tells the stories of the people they live among. A quote from USA Today: "If you like the stories on Prarie Home Companion or Northern Exposure, you'll
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love some real news from small-town Alaska." You can go to the Haines, Alaska website to get a visual picture of the places Heather describes. Pretty amazing!
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LibraryThing member jillstone
Wonderful non-fiction about a woman and her family living in Alaska. She writes the obituaries for the local paper and in this small town that means sitting down with the recently bereaved. This is a love story to the small town of Haines, Alaska. The many offbeat characters that make their home in
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Alaska co-exist with the Natives. Lende deals with the normal family issues and searches for reason when tragedy strikes.

Both this book and "Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs" her latest, are full of heart, hope and the beauty of the wilderness Lende shares with her family and friends.
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LibraryThing member heyjude
Essays about life - and death - in very, very small-town Alaska. Humorous, poignant. Worth reading.
LibraryThing member donkeytiara
stories that talk of life and death in a small town in alaska. Written by the local obituary writer, they remind of the life that comes before the death and how family and community helps through difficult times..(remember when the lower 48 had close-knit communities?) A simple, easy read... good
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cruise material.
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LibraryThing member Lake_Oswego_UCC
Tiny Haines, Alaska, ninety miles north of Juneau, is 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. As both obituary writer and social columnist for the
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local newspaper, Heather Lende knows better than anyone the goings-on in this breathtakingly beautiful place. Her offbeat chronicle brings us inside her busy life: we meet her husband, Chip, who owns the local hardware store; their five children; and a colorful assortment of friends and offbeat neighbors, including aging hippies, salty fishermen, native Tlingit Indians, Mormon spelunkers . . . as well as the moose, eagles, sea lions, and bears with whom they share this wild and perilous land.
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LibraryThing member rosencrantz79
A series of essays on life in Haines, AK, a nearly isolated small town in the southeast. Lende's style is conversational and not always elegant, but each piece reads like a letter from a close friend. The author is an obituary writer for the town's newspaper, and as such has special access to her
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neighbors' lives. By turns touching, funny, philosophical, and sad, this is a great read if you really want to know what life in AK can be like.
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LibraryThing member poetreegirl
An obituary writer from small town Alaska shares stories about life and death in her remote town.
LibraryThing member skinglist
An interesting book to be reading while sitting on a beach. I enjoyed the author's stories, although as an ARC, it was a little rough in the editing. Or she's more accustomed to short form on the newspaper

A good read & I learned a lot about small town Alaska. Would never want to live there
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LibraryThing member nancynova
A collection of newspaper columns and dissertation of the author's life in Haines, Alaska. It was meaningful to me because we visited Haines on family vacation last year, so I could picture what the author was talking about. It's a very different way of life there.
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member tjblue
A look at life-- family, friends and community-- in a small town in Alaska. I enjoyed this one very much!!!
LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for: People about to visit or who have just visited rural Alaska; people who like short slice-of-life stories.

In a nutshell: Obituary writer and Haines resident shares stories of life in a rural Alaskan town.

Line that sticks with me: “Following an old Haines rule, we dressed for the weather,
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not the vehicle.” p 19

Why I chose it: Two weeks ago I was on a cruise in Southeast Alaska, and took an excursion through Haines. It was a gorgeous part of the country, and when I saw this book in a store at our next stop, I decided to pick it up.

Review: Author Heather Lende is a journalist for one of the two local papers in Haines, population 2,400. About 15% of the residents are Tlingit, and pretty much everyone participates in some form of hunting, subsistence fishing, or dramatic outdoor activity like snowshoe hiking.

As you might expect from this book, there is a lot of talk about how Haines is the best place on earth, and how the people who live there are a different type, but Ms. Lende is also honest in examining some of the downfalls and challenges of choosing such a life. If someone is seriously injured during a snowstorm, they might not be able to get evacuated out. Their closest level one trauma center is in Seattle. Because of the types of jobs one can find in town, there are deaths from fishing accidents, or small aircraft crashes.

Many — but not all — of the stories relate to a death, which makes sense, since Ms. Lende is an obituary writer. But some are just about other components of life, whether adopting a daughter from overseas, or working with a political opponent on a fundraiser for medical bills.

This book is well written, but there are some parts that I found questionable. The first is the chapter when Ms. Lende goes to adopt her daughter. She repeatedly uses the term G*psy instead of Roma to refer to her daughter’s birth family. Not cool.

There’s also a chapter about political disagreements that is meant to come across as teaching the reader a lesson about how you can still come together and have pleasant times with people you disagree with. Unfortunately, the disagreement she and this man in the story had was essentially over the humanity of members of the LGBTQ community, so I had a hard time with the ‘let’s all get along’ nature of brushing that very real issue under the rug.

I enjoyed reading this, but I wouldn’t really say I recommend it.
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LibraryThing member Ralphd00d
Not a bad book put together with news and events of a small town in Alaska. Felt many I could relate to in a fashion, having grown up in a small town in the Mid-West. I liked it it brought out some of the things that many don't realize that it takes for people to get along ... especially in remote
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places like this one.
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LibraryThing member reader1009
nonfiction. Small town Alaskan living. Not super exciting or anything, but if the goal is to get an idea of what Haines townfolk are like, this does the trick.
LibraryThing member thornton37814
Heather Lende provides glimpses of her life and acquaintances from living in Haines, Alaska, a small town on the inside passage best known as a stop for cruise ships. Access to medical care and other conveniences is limited. Death sometimes touches close to home more than one would like. Lende
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wrote obituaries for the newspaper and the "news" column. The book gives the reader a feel for the area, but it's more of a base hit than a home run.
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WILLA Literary Award (Finalist — 2006)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

8 inches


156512524X / 9781565125247


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