Publisher: Algonquin Books, 2006
My Rating: A+
One of the best things about traveling, for me at least, is to try to absorb what it’s like to live in the place where I’m visiting. That’s why I like to linger at local diners, shop at local stores, and so forth. Engaging locals in conversation is the best part of a trip. It gives me a little peak into the life of a place.
Of course, better yet is knowing lots of people in an area. In 2007 my husband and I spent four months traveling all over Alaska. We traveled nearly every road in our truck and RV. We did meet lots of people and had a chance to see what life is like for the people there. At least we learned what it’s like in the summer time.
And now I feel like I know the rest of the story, at least from the point of view of Heather Lende. Heather lives in Haines, Alaska (a town we visited in August, 2007) with her husband and five children. She has a unique viewpoint of the residents of her town in that she is the person who writes the obituaries for the local paper. Heather goes way beyond writing just the facts of a person’s life. She goes and visits with family members and friends so her obituaries are a true reflection of the deceased.
Heather also writes about the various social and cultural events in the small town in a column called “Duly Noted.” In If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name, some items from Heather’s “Duly Noted” columns are reprinted in every other chapter. Although they are short chapters, it’s as if I were sitting in Haines reading the local paper and knowing who she’s talking about.
The rest of the book is Heather’s story of life in Haines. She and her husband came to Alaska when they were just out of college. They share a tremendous love of the Alaskan landscape and it’s people. They’ve become completely absorbed in the life of Haines. Her husband owns a lumberyard, she’s active in the activities of her children, church and school, and a host of other civic organizations.
I can tell that Heather is a masterful listener. She tells about the various activities of area residents as if she were actually there herself. Let me give you a few examples from the book.
- Fishing for a living is one of the main occupation of many resodents. Heather describes how deadly the fishing business can be.
- Heather and one of her oldest daughters traveled to Bulgaria to pick up her adopted daughter.
- Religion and politics are as alive and broiling as anywhere else. Heather finds herself in the middle of a sticky issue or two.
There are so many things in this book that I want to share with you but I’m afraid it would go on too long. Let me just say that I cried and laughed out loud and did lots of sighing. The best thing I can do is to suggest you find a copy of If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name and read it. So far this is my first A+ book of the year so, yes, I strongly recommended it to you.
I borrowed this book from the library in a new way – via my kindle. I’ve seen this option on my library’s catalog website. It’s listed as a “library ebook download.” With a few clicks and the normal few seconds, the book was on my kindle. So far, I like this option. Has anyone else tried it?
Heather’s website is here: Heather Lende