Sunday, July 01, 2007

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende and a whole lotta linky stuff

While he talked, I looked through the open door at two eagles circling in the warm breeze high above the water. Although I've seen thousands, the sight of an eagle in flight still moves me in a way I can't explain. It's like a prayer. In Tlingit legend, all animals, rivers, and even places have spirits, just like people. Tlingits believe that human and natural spirits are not separate but intertwined and that those spirits move throughout time and space. A child who is named for a grandmother is so closely linked to the elder's soul that she is even called "Grandma" by her parents. In the same way, an old man's "uncle" can be an infant.

I fanned myself with the funeral program and wondered if eagles and spirits and mountains and maybe even strange lights and meteors are God's way of getting our attention. Do we feel God's presence because we are looking for him, or do we feel it because he is looking for us?

The minute I closed If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, I thought, "Oh, man, this one's going to be hard to review." It's not so much that there's anything complex about the book. The fact is, I enjoyed it so much that I'm not certain I can do it justice.

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name is a memoir written by tiny Haines, Alaska's obituary writer, columnist and radio commentator. She has a family of 6 (5 children, 1 husband) and volunteers for just about everything. She's spiritual, reflective, outdoorsy and loves where her family lives. Because she writes obituaries and spends a lot of time interviewing the survivors, a great deal of the writing in her book is wrapped around various deaths. But, it's not morbid or depressing in any way, although the stories are often touching (as in, "Pass me the Kleenex, would you, babe?"). Instead, Lende brings the characters of Haines to life and ponders what it all means - life and death, beauty and God, family and friends and how they all interact in a tiny town where you can skirt around people but they'll still know all about you and probably what you're up to while you're avoiding them.

The result is a quiet book of anecdotal reflection very much like Anne Lamott's writing, with the kind of wacky set of characters you only meet in small towns. I laughed and cried while I read it; in the end, as I closed the book I was snuffling and wiping away tears when the youngster walked into my bedroom. I told him about the ending and he nodded. He knew exactly why I was really crying - why the end of the book hit me in that way - and he was nice about it, even though he thinks I'm a complete sap. Okay, he knows I'm a complete sap.

Just before her planned book tour in 2005, Heather Lende was literally run over by a truck while biking. She's still alive, thank goodness, and writing another book. I would have been really heartbroken if there had been a tragic ending after reading about life in small-town Alaska through such a remarkable, warm-hearted person's eyes. You can read all about her, here. Or go to the home page of Heather's website. But, I'd recommend that you read the book. It's beautiful. I wish she lived next door to me.

- huge thumbs up

In other news: The spouse has just written me an email: "Okay, Sydney is on the short list of places to visit." Geez. Didn't I tell him that? I distinctly recall saying he could just take me along and drop me off in Sydney because it's one of the coolest places on the planet, judging by everything I've read about it. He has been longing for my camera the entire time he's been in Australia. And, I'm not so sure I shouldn't have just sent it with him. I did get some cool lizard, moth, little green leaf-imitator and bird photos. But, Australia is apparently rather exotic. He has sent me photos of spectacular sunsets, funky birds, and a very toothy crocodile. I feel kind of bad for hogging the good camera. Here's the crocodile:

With my camera, he could have gotten photos that a crocodile dentist would appreciate.

Meanwhile, I'm taking photos of exciting things like bluejays:

But, hey. Nice action, eh? Just one more day till we fetch the spouse from the airport!!

I'm still stalled at #44 in my "100 Things About Me" post. I'm not sure there are 56 more things worth mentioning. In fact, I keep looking at my list and thinking, "I should delete that one. And, that one."

Sitting here typing and a message has just come in . . . Yippee!!! Wahoo!! Another terrific Estella's Revenge ezine is online!! I've got two reviews in this one:

What I Believe by Norma Fox Mazer and
Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile

My interviews with Colleen Gleason and Simon Van Booy have been delayed partly because Andi said she already had plenty, partly because I fell down on the job, and a little bit because I couldn't get in touch with anyone when I finally decided to scramble and get my act together. So, if I disappear and only two people hear from me (namely, Colleen and Simon) for a few days, it's because I have never missed a deadline in my life and I just blew it. Can I cry husband-on-the-other-side-of-the-world stress?

Recently Walked in the Door:

Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels
Hotel Du Lac - Anita Brookner
Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy - Lindsay Moran
Hurricane - Karen Harper (thanks to the wonderful, generous Book Fairy Barbara)
The Secret Life of Lobsters - Trevor Corson
The Ocean in the Closet - Yuko Taniguchi

It was already on my Non-Fiction Five Challenge pile, but I just moved The Writing Life by Annie Dillard to the top, thanks to the fact that Heather Lende mentioned it in If You Lived Here, etc. I figure if she enjoys Annie Dillard, I will. You'll be the first to know the verdict.

Is it just me, or does it seem like I'm always being spotted by these guys and glared at?

Okay, off to do the laundry, gather the recyclables, tidy the house and read. Hope you all have a peachy day!

Bookfool, anxious to have a husband back in the house (and not merely because he cooks)


  1. That's a heck of a big croc!

    Nice bluejay. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm going to crash my car because I get caught up watching jays and cardinals while I'm tooling around.

    Just one more day until the return of the hubby? Awesome. I'm really happy for you. Seems like you've had a hard time without him.

  2. Kookie,

    Yeah, he's a biggie!! I'm so envious of my husband, getting to see such a scary but cool sight.

    Well, then, you and I are just alike. I frighten my son. Since I've learned how to spot hawks, I have this tendency to look up when I see movement (oopsy - not wise) and, when possible, I'll whip over to the roadside to take photographs if I see something terrific - cardinals and bluejays are on the terrific list. I love color. :)

    Yep, one more day. Thanks. He's been traveling for 23 out of our 25 years of marriage and I'm just tired of being left behind. I think that's the main thing. I need to get out; my life is pretty dull. Last year, he went to Hawaii without me.

  3. Wow. If what you've quoted is typical of the book, and I'm assuming it is, I've got to get my hands on it. It sounds absolutely amazing.

    The pictures are, too. The one of the bird in flight is incredible. I don't really have the words to cover it. At least not without sounding all goofy.

    It's good to here that you've raised a fine, compassionate, understanding son. That says a lot about you.


  4. Awww, don't give yourself a hard time because of the deadline. Now there'll just be that much more anticipation for your interviews this next time around. I know I'm drooling waiting for the Simon interview.

    I've had a buttload of books walk in the house lately. Must post about it.


  5. CJ,

    I think that's a pretty representative quote. It's a very pensive book written by a really terrific lady who actually never sounds even remotely self-centered, in spite of the fact that she obviously is extremely giving.

    Aww, thanks.

    And, thanks again. That's probably about the biggest compliment anyone can give me, just saying I've raised a couple of decent human beings. :)


    Okay, I'll forgive myself and try to jump right on this thing so it doesn't happen, again. I've been a serious procrastinator, lately. Very embarrassing.

    Buttload of books? Cool! I got the book you mailed last week - forgot to mention that one; I'll add it to my list. It's a beautiful little book!!!

  6. Great pictures!
    The "If you lived Here I'd Known Your Name" looks really good, I am going to have check this one out.

  7. myutopia,

    Thanks, that butterfly or moth was nuts. I forgot to say that - he buzzed around my head. I've got photos of him in the pear tree, on the car antenna, on the greenery under our oak trees and . . . get this . . . on the welcome mat. He let me walk right past him, within a foot. Nutty!

    I hope you love the book as much as I did. :)

  8. #45 thing about Bookfool. You have a test named after you. Books that pass "The Bookfool Test" are good without being gory or nightmare inducing ;-)

  9. LOL!! I love it, Suzi! I'm definitely stealing that one. :)

  10. Isn't it pretty? I was really pleased with the quality of their books all around. I was excited because no one picked up The Last Communist Virgin and I get to read it myself. Woohoo!! :D


  11. It's a beauty. I had to look up The Last Communist Virgin; it has a terrific cover, too. I thought the title sounded right up your alley. :)

  12. I really don't want to see that croc any closer, not even in a photo. Scary.

    The book sounds really good. I'm going to have to give up your blog, I keep adding books. OTOH, like that's a bad thing.

    I've noticed quite a few of your titles have the word "Secret" in them. Something you want to share with the class? ;)

  13. Great pics. Great review. Got the book on my TBR list now. Thanks! Glad you're hubby's on his way home soon! You and I are both camera hogs, I guess. Speaking of which, we just bought a new one (it's en route from Dell). It's an Olympus E-410 and comes with two lenses (14-42 mm and 40-150 mm). Just in time for our vacation! Whoohoo!

  14. Carrie,

    Babe, you're just not a reptile person. If you ever come to visit me, I'll just take care of those snakes and lizards, okay? :)

    I have that same problem with book blogs. It's a killer, isn't it? I do think this one's a gem.

    LOL! You're very observant! I loved what Andi said, "The Sex Lives of People in Love" would be the love child of Maarten Troost and Simon Van Booy.

    I can't give away any of the secrets. That would be telling.


    Thank you, thank you, and I think you'll really like this one because of her love of family and nature.

    I'm better about the camera than I used to be, actually. There was a time when I wouldn't let anyone touch my camera (the Maxxum 7000) - even David had to beg. Now, I do share a little. But, when David asks to take it to a foreign country, my immediate thought is always, "So, what would I do while you're gone?" It's one of my small joys and I indulge regularly. Still . . . the few photos he sent were awesome and they would have been spectacular at a higher resolution.

    Congrats on the new camera purchase!! Fun!! Hope you have a blast on your vacation. :)

  15. I love the bluejay picture! I got attacked by one once, but I still like them. No hard feelings, I guess.

    I remember seeing the Heather Lende book a couple of years ago. I'm sorry she had that accident, but it could have been much worse. A truck! Dang!

  16. I just love coming over here. Although I ALWAYS seem to be adding books to my TBR! The book sounds amazing....and the pictures are always a treat to see!

    Glad your hubby will be home soon!

  17. Great review - this is going on the list, especially since memoirs/biographies have become a theme this year.

  18. Bybee,

    Bluejays can be pretty aggressive, but you're the first person I've ever known who was attacked by one. I'm glad he didn't peck out your eyeballs; that would make it really difficult to read.

    I jotted off a quick note to the author and she said she biked 48 miles in honor of her upcoming birthday. Yeah, I think it could have been a lot worse. She's doing well. :)


    How sweet! I just stuck your comment in my "warm fuzzy" file 'cause it made me feel so good. The book is definitely wonderful. :)

    9 more hours till I pick up hubby!! Ask me if I ever thought I'd count down to bringing him home. LOL


    Memoirs do seem to be a big choice for the NFF and Armchair Traveler challenge, don't they? I really enjoyed this one; hope you do, also.

  19. That sounds like a great book! I'm adding it to my wishlist (I have a feeling I'll be saying that a lot throughout the course of this challenge,heh)

    Funnily enough, I've never had any real desire to visit Australia, but my husband would love to do so. Perhaps after reading Bryson's book I'll change my mind.

  20. Lesley,

    It's a good book. Our wish lists will be bricks when this is over. :)

    My husband wasn't interested in Australia; I was. He went; I stayed home. He loved it; I'm feeling a little hateful. But, I'm glad he's returning.

    I don't think Bryson's book is the best for encouraging a visit if you're disinterested, though. He talks quite a bit about the deadly animals and insects. But, it's a fun book and it didn't stop me from wanting to go.

  21. I'm looking forward to reading your reviews in Estella's. I hope your husband comes home soon. And, so happy you got Hotel Du Lac. I need to blog about it but wow, I loved it.

  22. Oh, I forgot to say that I have been trying to compile a '100 things' list too and it's been very hard! I am stumped around the same number you are, and also don't feel like I really should include about half of them anyway, lol.

  23. Iliana,

    I'll have to watch for your review. It's always so exciting to acquire a book and then find out people loved it, after you've already brought it home (kind of a relief, actually, isn't it?).


    Can you believe how rough it is to come up with 100 things you think are worth mentioning? Horrible! I totally skidded to a halt and then Suzi got me going again . . . and then I stopped after about 3 more. Some of mine are more like anecdotes - too long! Others, I think, "Oh, duh that is so not worth mentioning." I may just stop at 50. :)

  24. Nancy, I really do love your blog, your photos and your posts! Every time I come here you always have such a terrific book review to share and such great conversation, too! Thanks!

    you said:

    The minute I closed If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, I thought, "Oh, man, this one's going to be hard to review." It's not so much that there's anything complex about the book. The fact is, I enjoyed it so much that I'm not certain I can do it justice.

    Oh Nancy, I know exactly what you mean! I actually procrastinate on writing reviews for books I truly,truly love, for fear of not being able to do justice to them,just like you suggested.

    This book sounds like a truly good one...I will look it up. Thank you for the lovely review.

    I'm happy to see you will be reading Trevor Carson's "The Secret Lives of Lobsters". I just read his second one "The Zen of Fish" and he has such an entertaining writing style you'll never suspect he's educating you as well! lol Don't you just love books that inform you without making you conscious that they are? :)

    Wishing you a Happy Fourth, Nancy and glad hubby is back!

  25. Lotus,

    First, thanks so much. You've made my day. :)

    I wonder if procrastinating about reviews of favorite books is a common thing. It's nice to know I'm not the only blogger who feels that way!!

    Oh, good, I'm glad you enjoyed The Secret Life of Lobsters. I wonder if I read your review? I can't recall exactly when I decided to put that book on my wish list or why, but I know it was a blog review (or two) that convinced me. :) I do think the best and most informative books are those that are entertaining, as opposed to blandly factual and tedious. I suspect that the reason quite a few people resist nonfiction is that they had to read too many plodding, dry works during their school years. That was certainly true of me. It took quite a while for me to discover there were nonfiction books that were actually fun to read.

    We're having a nice, quiet 4th, thanks! Hubby is snoring!! I'm so glad he's back. :)


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