Synopses & Reviews
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 community affairs. Heather Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for the local newspaper. If anyone knows the goings-on in this close-knit town— from births to weddings to funerals— she does.
Whether contemplating the mysterious death of eccentric Speedy Joe, who never took off his hat— not even for a haircut; researching the details of a one-legged lady gold miner's adventurous life; observing the Chilkat Bald Eagle Festival; or ice skating in the shadow of glacier-studded mountains, Lende's warm, folksy style brings us inside her busy life.We meet her husband, Chip, who owns the local lumber yard, their five children, and a colorful assortment of friends and neighbors, including aging hippies, salty fisherman, 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.
"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. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Who knew a writer could find so much human drama, simple pleasure and thorny issues in such a remote place? If you like the stories on Prairie Home Companion or Northern Exposure, you'll love some real news from small-town Alaska."
"Heather's rendering of a place and its people is so honest, so intimate and so perfect....It's what, I think, we all want from life."
Craig Popelars, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
"Heather Lende is the perfect frontier guide clear-eyed and big- hearted, tackling family and community and life and death with humor and hope."
Stewart O'Nan, author of Faithful
"These are true tales of ordinary people who do extraordinary things with (and to) one another in one of the most beautiful backwaters on Earth."
Tom Bodett, author of The End of the Road stories and Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier
" Heather Lende is deeply attuned to the simple, the quirky, and the quietly profound elements that compose a life well- lived, and she writes of them with grace and good humor. When, now and again, your reading is interrupted by tears, they will be the sweet sort."
Michael Perry author of Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time
"This is something tender and brave using death as introduction to lives and loves and fabric of community in a northern town. Heather Lende provides powerful witness."
Seth Kantner, author of Ordinary Wolves
"Written with ease and empathy, this is both about maintaining a home in Alaska and about being at home in the world...Homespun warmth in a cold climate"
"Lende paints a picture of life in a unique setting and writes thoughtfully about her life, family, faith, neighbors and small town conflict... [An] absorbing homage."
"The author has a real gift for eulogy; she knows that every life contains something to admire, honor or illuminate...Lende's quiet vice resonates long after the book is finished." Booklist
Haines, Alaska, accessible by water or air, has no traffic light and no mail delivery; people can vanish without a trace, and funerals are community affairs. Lende posts both the obituaries and the social column for the local newspaper, and if anyone knows the goings-on in this close-knit town, she does.
About the Author
Heather Lende writes for Haine's Chilkat Valley News and is a frequent contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and NPR's Morning Edition. Her column for the Anchorage Daily News was awarded the 2002 Suzan Nightingale McKay Best Columnist Award by the Alaska Press Club.