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80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining glimpse of life in small-town Alaska.
Life in Alaska is different. Life in small-town Alaska is quite a bit different. Haines, a community in the Southeastern region of the state, has a population of only around 2,000 people. The high school has a mere 100 students, with a grand total of two school buses to transport them. Though most of the roads are now paved, there is still not a single traffic light...
Published on August 19, 2006 by Monika

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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I have lived there, you probably do know my name.
I was given this book by my Mother and have enjoyed reading it, primarily because I grew up in Haines and know many of the people the author mentions.

I do recommend it with the following criticisms: it is not accurate, the writing is Chicken Soup for the Soul Variety and it is very much centered on Heather Lende.

When I say it is not accurate I mean...
Published on October 23, 2005 by Ryan J. Barber


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80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining glimpse of life in small-town Alaska., August 19, 2006
By 
This review is from: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska (Paperback)
Life in Alaska is different. Life in small-town Alaska is quite a bit different. Haines, a community in the Southeastern region of the state, has a population of only around 2,000 people. The high school has a mere 100 students, with a grand total of two school buses to transport them. Though most of the roads are now paved, there is still not a single traffic light. Nobody puts numbers on their houses, because there is no individual mail delivery - all mail is picked up at the post office. There are few land routes in and out of the town, and air and water travel are limited to good weather conditions. The town has no hospital. Those needing medical care beyond what the local clinic can attend to must either fly to Juneau, Alaska's capital, or drive to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory.

Author Heather Lende moved to Alaska with her then-newlywed husband right after graduating college, spent a short time in Anchorage, and then traveled to Haines where she has lived ever since. She writes the obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News, the local newspaper, as well as a column entitled "Duly Noted," which consists of short blurbs about current minor news related to the community. Through her work at the paper, gathering information for the obituaries she writes, she has become very close to many members of the community, and has many heartfelt and interesting stories to tell. This is the focus of the book.

Other reviewers have criticized the book for being too "self-centered" but that is exactly what a memoir is - a personal reflection. Flip to the back cover and you'll see "Travel / Memoir" printed right above the barcode. Lende's writing accomplishes two things: It takes us into the close-knit world of a remote Alaskan town, and it relates what the author has seen and experienced to her own life, showing us how living in Haines has affected her personally. There is no plotline to the book. It is a collection of vignettes about life and death in the town and surrounding area, and they are arranged in no distinct topical or chronological order, but nevertheless manage to come together into a pleasing whole. The vignettes are also interspersed with excerpts from Lende's "Duly Noted" column, giving us further insights into what is important and noteworthy to people in this small community.

This is not grand literature, but the writing is clear and enjoyable to read. It is not really as humorous as it is advertised to be (though there are some funny moments), but I do not think this was the intent in the first place. It is a heartfelt glimpse into small-town life, and though I am originally from Alaska myself, I have no experience living in a small, remote community, and found the book intriguing. Though I don't think I could live permanently in such a place, I am now very interested in visiting Haines myself, and I think the book may well have the same effect on other readers. It's a light, quick read, but definitely worthwhile, even if all you're looking for is a way to pass the time on an airplane (which is, in fact, how I read the book). I'd certainly recommend giving it a shot.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I have lived there, you probably do know my name., October 23, 2005
I was given this book by my Mother and have enjoyed reading it, primarily because I grew up in Haines and know many of the people the author mentions.

I do recommend it with the following criticisms: it is not accurate, the writing is Chicken Soup for the Soul Variety and it is very much centered on Heather Lende.

When I say it is not accurate I mean that the sense of community she portrays is not the sense of community that I have felt growing up there and in the ten years since graduating from high school.

Haines frequently leaves people feeling isolated and alone and at the same time ridiculously over scrutinized. A schoolmate once said to me, "Whenever I go to Haines I just want to start drinking." Depression, substance abuse, drunk driving and violence all are a significant part of life in Haines.

That said the other two criticisms are only criticisms if you allow them to be, I like the chicken soup books and I enjoyed reading about Heather's life. Take the book for what it is and I suspect you'll enjoy it greatly.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable tales from a small Alaska town, July 9, 2005
I picked up this book intrigued by the title of the book, and the location of the small town. Of course there are many small towns across America, but not too many as isolated as Haines, Alaska, population 2,400, about 90 miles north of Junea.

In "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name" (281 pages) author Heather Lende brings us everyday stories of what life is like in Haines, Alaska. There is no story line in the book, just observations of what life is like in a place that is reachable only by ferry or by plane (no McDonald's!). Surprise, but even in a close-knit community like that, it turns out that there is trouble in the high school (less than 100 kids in total) with kids being picked on etc. Hende writes the obituaries for the local weekly, and that allows her to get even closer to the people in the community, and it comes across in the book. Her love for Haines is obvious, and affectuous. It makes me want to visit the place myself.

No, this book is not some grand statement of literature. Instead, this is the perfect beach reading for the summer. "If You Lived Here" will take you to a place that most of us have never lived in, visited, or ever will visit. Highly recommended!
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pearls of neighborly wisdom, September 7, 2006
By 
Peter Baklava (Charles City, Iowa) - See all my reviews
This review is from: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska (Paperback)
Heather Lende's neck of the woods--Haines, Alaska-- is a place where the name of the game is subsistence, and the surroundings are both breathtakingly beautiful and frequently downright dangerous.

Episodic in the fashion of an Alaskan "All Creatures Great and Small", Lende's book creates a panoramic view of her small community built out of informal, conversational anecdotes. No one could be better equipped to write about Haines than Lende, who authors all the local obituaries for the local newpaper. Her job as the "chronicler of deaths" also wins her the dramatic role as the Narrator in the local production of the play, "Our Town". She plays softball for a team called the "Diehards", and each Christmas can be found with a chain of her friends beneath the costume of the "Christmas Dragon" weaving through the streets.

It's a measure of Lende's authentic and intimate writing style that most readers will feel as if they are right beside her as she recounts the triumphs and travails of her family, friends and neighbors.

As for her politics--who really cares? She tips her hand about her causes once or twice, but for the most part the book is not overtly political. She seems like a fair-minded and caring individual. I thank her for providing readers with this quaint book elucidating the mysteries of a small Alaskan village. The local tourism industry should be thrilled with this book-- it will bring curious readers to Alaska in droves.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lende brings a fireplace to your door, June 2, 2005
By 
Upon reading this book you will become endeared with the characters, the settings, and the simplicity of small town life in Alaska. The "simple life" does have its counterpart, however, as many complex situations and thought processes emerge from the freedom to think and act in an untamed land, as if the grandeur of the landscape allows for freedom of heart and soul. There are moments of humor, sadness, and fortitude, but what will stay with the reader is a renewed faith in humanity's ability to treat like other like humans, while prospering in a rugged land.

Lende's writing style keeps you turning page after page. The segues are seamless, while every chapter is a journey in itself, ending with an aftertaste like a fine wine.

Almost every chapter is based on a death, or birth, or marriage, but the content exceeds this starting platform. Lende turns her experience in writing obituaries into a celebration of life, and paints such vivid pictures you feel like you have known the characters your whole life.

This is a must read for anyone interested in small town life in Alaska, or the potential of the human spirit.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVED this book., March 4, 2006
By 
I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this book. Lende celebrates the simple life which so often goes unnoticed. The people came alive for me and reminded me of so many characters that I know. I was so moved by the book that I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce in Haines, AK to get more information about this little bit of heaven where neighbors take care of each other.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A celebration of small town life, January 31, 2006
By 
I loved this book. While some reviewers have complained that the book centers around Heather, this is indeed a story written by a woman with a unique perspective. As a chronicler of life in her weekly "Duly Noted" column in the local paper while also writing the obituaries, Heather sees and writes about her neighbors in their best and worst times. I have lived in remote, small towns, and could identify strongly with life in Haines. One of my favorite chapters revolves around her observations of people in Vancouver when she and her husband spend a weekend there escaping cabin fever. Each homeless person, schizophrenic, and odd person that she sees on the street reminds her of people in Haines. The difference is that in large cities these people are shunned, while in Haines they are known by name and folded into the community. How true!

So many things touched me in this book. Her description of small town funerals where friends gather to speak simply and powerfully about the deceased; her description of a five-hour drive through a blizzard to get care for a child with an apendix about to burst when the nearest hospital is hundreds of miles away--all these are realities of small town life in places like Haines. One reviewer complains that she doesn't talk about the grimness of life in these small towns. Why would she? This is Heather's story, after all. She has grown to accept the limitations of small town life and loves Haines and its people. It shows in her writing.
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43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I live here, she knows my name., October 1, 2006
I live here. Heather knows my name. I know hers. I'm even rated a quick mention in her book. But there are many people in town she doesn't know. Heather doesn't get to the trailer courts and the local convenience store all that often. And in all fairness, the publishers were the ones who slapped the title on this book. Heather's Haines is just that Heather's Haines. It is Haines as seen through 'A Prairie Home Companion' liberal vision of life. On the surface it is all embracingly fair, painting a picture of wonderful quirky resilient people all moving, even if unconsciously, towards a politically correct utopia. Yet the reality is of course quite different.

While the town does have the vestiges of real community, satellite cable television, the internet, cellphones are all making inroads. Back in the early 90s when music videos finally arrived the teen boys suddenly all turned their caps around. And they became as disaffected as teens everywhere. Black Metal is now the rage. Sex before the age of 13 is not uncommon. And the Christian or New Age parents often don't understand the kids at all. But of course it is not all of the kids. Athletics, Drama and other influences keep a fair number of students relatively sane. Nevertheless there are serious problems.

Alcoholism is one of them, particularly among adults and Native Americans. And it's pretty much a taboo subject in public discussion. The town is not that violent though, unless you spend a LOT of time at the bars only. The doors to the homes are still unlocked, though lower forty-eight styled teen alienation are making a few people wonder how long that will continue. And there are some seriously prickly and petty people lodged in places of power. Heather doesn't note the real dark side of Haines, because I don't think she thinks that there is much darkness in the world. One can live in a Haines that is somewhat like Heather's description of it. And just sort of close one's eyes to it. You can go to a festive event, and see the smiling faces and not the alcoholics also present. The chipper couples at today's parties will have often switched partners within a year or two. One can see the moment without seeing past or future.

Heather does often capture something of the joy of living in Haines, yet she glosses over many of the dark spots in the picture. And she ignores many of the really great aspects of living here. What are they? You'll have to visit for yourself in October or April to find out. Many of the people I've met who have read this book probably wouldn't appreciate Haines on the many gray days of rain. But that's the reality. Sunshine is more the exception than the rule. Heather's book is a bit too sunny. But yes the sunshine is here too.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I live here, she knows my name..., June 9, 2005
By 
Randa (Haines, Alaska) - See all my reviews
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This is my town, these are my friends. Heather does a great job portraying our lives. She makes me remember why I live here and after reading this book you'll wish you lived here too. And, yes, everything she's written is all true...and the Duly Noted's are for real.
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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick and (mostly) worthwhile read, July 6, 2005
By 
Heather Lende's book about a tiny town in Southeast Alaska is not a literary masterpiece, but it does have an endearing quality to it. Lende's writing leaves something to be desired and is best suited to the quick "Duly Noted" columns she writes for her local newspaper.

If you live in any kind of city, you will be amazed at her tales of near-isolation; getting to the next town is often impossible during the winter, when the temperature dips to about 30 below and ten feet of snow pile up, prohibiting ships and planes from getting in and out. There are frequent sightings of bears, moose, seals, goats, and wolves. A minor medical scare in "the Lower Forty-eight" becomes a life or death situation in Haines (there is no longer a facility in which to give birth; expectant mothers are flown to Juneau).

There is a lot of death in "If You Lived Here," since Lende's day job is writing obits for the weekly paper. Many of them involve fishing and flying accidents, common ways to go in Alaska. The message seems to be that with every death there is a lesson about her own life to be learned, and some readers will lose interest in this self-centeredness. Perhaps a warning that this is largely autobiographical is in order. When I bought this, I thought I would be reading about the residents in the town, not the residents in the town as they relate to Heather Lende's life. And, whether you agree with her or not, her "I'm so liberal and free-thinking" mantra becomes tiresome.

"If You Lived Here" is a at best an ode to the beautiful Alaskan wilderness and at worst the diary of a stay-at-home mom whose only claim to fame is living in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. It is at times poignant, but it can also be corny and eye rolling inducing. It's a swift read that may encourage you to visit Alaska.
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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 by Heather Lende (Paperback - March 29, 2006)
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