Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book #77: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town AlaskaTitle: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name
Author: Heather Lende

Eddie and I are leaving for Alaska this week (we're going on a cruise with both sets of parents) and a few weeks ago my friend Catherine said that I should read If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name in preparation for the trip. She said it was funny, and it was about a woman who lived in a small town in Alaska who wrote the obituaries for her local paper. I have a morbid fascination with the obituaries (they're often the only part of the paper that I read on a regular basis) and when I got home from our run that morning I looked up the book on Amazon and realized that Lende was writing about Haines, a town we'll be visiting on our cruise. So naturally I had to read the book.

I often think of books in terms of other books that they remind me of. If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name reminds me quite a bit of Kate Braestrup's Here if You Need Me. I know that Kate and Heather live just about as far away as possible from each other and still both be Americans (Kate in the woods of Maine, Heather in the woods of Alaska) but both of their books are testaments to family, place and community. Both have large families, a flair for language, and a genuine love and sense of generosity for the hometowns they've adopted. And both see their jobs as somewhat of a calling, a ministry. In addition, their books are comprised of essays that could stand alone, but work beautifully together as a collection.

When we're in Haines next week, wandering the town and kayaking, I'll be on the lookout for a tall, skinny runner of a woman, and maybe for her husband, who owns the local lumber yard. She may live way, way out in the most beautiful small town in Alaska, but she still has a loyal fan club. Heck, if I were a little more emboldened, I might even call her up (I'm sure she's listed in the phone book) and have her show me the best running trails.

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