From 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)
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^BWife, mother, and obituary writer Lende lives in Haines, Alaska (pop. 2,500), a town without a stoplight, hospital, or home mail delivery. Haines has been called "the real Northern Exposure
^B" and the town is certainly full of colorful characters: the tattooed Presbyterian pastor, the Roy Orbison-impersonator school principal, and a self-described "domestic goddess," to name a few. As a reporter, Lende knows just about everyone in town, and each chapter profiles a birth, wedding, or death. The author has a real gift for eulogy; she knows that every life contains something to admire, honor, or illuminate. And the people are Haines: by the time the profiles are finished, the reader has a good idea of what it's like to live among the varied citizens (and the moose, sea lions, and bears) of Haines, in the shadow of a glacier. Lende's quiet voice resonates long after the book is finished. Rebecca MakselCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved