Monthly Archives: January 2011

Family, Friendships and Faith in Alaska


When you don’t want a book to end, you know it’s one you can recommend to friends. Heather Lende’s 2010 book is subtitled “Family, Friendships, and Faith in Small-Town Alaska.” At the end of January of the worst winter on record across 49 of our 50 states, I’d like to invite you all to enjoy this heart warming memoir titled: Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010).

“Part Annie Dillard, Part Anne Lamott” is the back cover description to this entertaining and enthralling depiction of real people struggling with real world issues as they stay true to living life on the edge of survival, much less civilization, in small town Alaska.

Part Northern Exposure, part Prairie Home Companion might be a better description of the narrative of Heather Lende’s Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. The author of If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name put Haines, Alaska, on the literary map, and this book makes it a place you’lll want to revisit.

Heather Lende writes the obituaries for the local newspaper in her small Alaskan community and her Hospice work is a natural extension of her job. But it’s her own brush with mortality that keeps her writing real and fresh.

Heather Lende suffered a traumatic bike inury just as her first book launched. She also lost her mother soon after, whose last real message to her living survivors offers us the title to her new book. Lende’s mother fought off an impending death for years and without sharing any final words, left her wondering what her mother would have wanted to say. Take good care of the garden and the dogs becomes her tag line for coming to terms with life’s bad breaks and unanticipated turns.

Heather doesn’t just inspire, she conspires. This gifted writer invites the reader to engage in creating connections and community through the process of grief and mourning. HeatherLende divides the world into those people: those who have experienced suffering from the loss of a loved one and those who will.

Lende weaves her life lessons into everyday Alaskan adventures. The totem poles, Ttlingit friends, the almost annual Blessing of the Fleet, snowshoeing,new community health center and Episcopalian congregation make for a window into a part of America that is honest, unadorned and profound.

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Filed under Just one good reader, Memoir