BOOK: "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name," by Heather Lende (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $23.95)
TARGET AUDIENCE: Readers curious about life and death "on the edge of nowhere."
The title is incomplete -- they should add "And If You Died Here, I'd Know Even More." New England expatriate and NPR commentator Lende writes obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News in isolated Haines, Alaska, at the top of the Inside Passage. As she collects material for her column, family and friends reveal their loved ones' secret adventures, talents and passions. "I think a lot about loss, but more about love," she writes.
The town has its characters, grumps, biddies and jerks, but Lende clearly loves living there. But, though beautiful ("like Switzerland, only on the ocean"), Haines is wild country. "It may be our backyard, but wild creatures still have the right of way." There are many ways to hurt yourself: be mauled by a bear, be charged by a moose, crash your plane in the thick fog, fall over a cliff while mountain goat hunting. But it's comforting that if you do so fatally, Lende will write up a nice story about you.
-- Jerry V. Haines