Remember our stop at Haines during our Alaskan cruise last summer? Remember how I told you about an author, Heather Lende, who spoke on the ship that afternoon? Well. I have read her first book, “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name.”
Heather grew up in New York, but moved to Haines with her husband shortly after graduating from college. They’ve lived there ever since, raising five kids. Heather writes obituaries for the local paper. This book is a series of “slice of life” observations on life in Haines.
Since Heather’s latest book is titled “Find the Good,” I’ll go with that —
This book was a fun way to re-live my trip to Haines. I had seen various places and things she mentions in the book — it’s always fun to make connections in that way. Several times I found myself wishing I’d read the book prior to the trip, so I’d know of a few places to look for.
She clearly loves Haines. “Muir, one of the first non-Natives to explore this region, afterward advised young people not to come to our part of Alaska. He warned that they’d have to either stay or know that every other place they’d see for the rest of their lives would be a disappointment.” She mentions Haines being “a place out of time” with residents not locking their cars or houses, mostly not having TVs, and reading papers later than the day they’re published due to delivery time.
There are many stories about death, both of elderly people and of the young and healthy (Alaska is a dangerous place), and of animals. These are touchingly written, although they get to be a bit of a downer after the 12th or 13th one.
It’s interesting to learn “insider” things about Alaska: it’s true that each Alaska resident gets an annual dividend of $1000 to $1700 just for living there, from the state’s oil revenue. Still, jobs can be hard to come by. Lende writes about moving there from New England. Although she and her husband both had college degrees, he found a job cleaning movie theaters at night, while she was turned down for a receptionist job.
Lende writes, at about the 80% part (yep, I read it on Kindle), “I’m a liberal Democrat.” But that much is clear far earlier. And I always, always wonder why authors put this type of bias into their books, because it inevitably turns off half the audience (in this case, me). She describes a local paper as “a weird, right-wing sort of publication that prints … Dr. Dobson’s ‘Focus on the Family’ column.” Um — is Focus on the Family really that “out there?”
She goes on at length about her efforts on behalf of gay rights in her community (she describes Haines as roughly half liberal and half conservative), saying, “I realized how critical it is to teach our children that people think differently, and that there are ways to act on our beliefs without demeaning others who don’t believe the same things.” So true — and yet, I’ve found it to be the case that liberals very rarely tolerate the views of conservatives, or assume good intentions on our part. I’m sure some conservatives are guilty, too, but it does seem to me that liberals are far less tolerant of views other than their own.
Heather refers to “the notoriously conservative Don Young” — doesn’t “notorious” have a negative connotation? Why not “famously conservative?” She asks a parent how they’d react upon learning one of their children was gay. When the mom says, “I’d love ’em, I’m their mother, but I tell you, I’d be sick about it.” Heather leaves, and “I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my face.” I dunno, I appreciate the mom’s honesty. I guess Lende just came across as a bit smug and judgmental to me.
I’ve read some reviews of her later two books, and the consensus seems to be that she has mellowed with age. If so, I feel that this would really help improve the books’ tone. She did come across as very nice during her talk onboard our cruise ship.
Have you read any of Lende’s books? What were your thoughts?
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