“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 breathtakingly beautiful place.
Heather Lende's new book, Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics is available now.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Simply Wonderful Book
I just don't get the one star review one person gave. A person who writes obituaries for a living and is writing a memoir is going to include writing about death. In any case, aren't the obituaries much better and personal than those in your hometown paper. I love the background on how she personally talks to the families (usually taking donuts with her) and talks to the relatives around a kitchen table with coffee.
Her memoir of her adult life spent in this small isolated paradise is wonderfully sketched out--whether it's disagreements people just learn to disagree on, old ladies in hot red pants, goat hunting up close and personal, tragic fishing stories or the beauty of ice skating and good neighbors.
A lovely glimpse into the life of Heather, her family, and Haines Alaska. What I enjoyed most was the spiritual slant of the writing, Heather is a obit writer for the local paper. Her musings and tales of Haines and the townspeople almost made me want to move there to be part of that wonderful community. Except for the bears, snow and cold! She has written a a second book also.
Fun, interesting read
You really get a glimpse of small town Alaska, eccentricities, quirks, danger, heartache an everything in between.