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If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska Hardcover – June 3, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 419 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

^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 Maksel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (June 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123166
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123168
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (419 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
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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