Sunday, June 26, 2011

Take Good Care Of The Garden And The Dogs by Heather Lende

Heather Lende writes a weekly newspaper column for the small town of Haines, Alaska.  She also writes the obituaries for the townspeople.  Take Good Care of the Garden and The Dogs is a series of essays illuminating her life in Alaska as well as the lives of her neighbors and friends.  The reader is transported to this different way of life, and emerges understanding what draws people to this remote location.

The essays talk about various items, often touching on tragedy.  There is a chapter about Lende's bicycle accident.  She was run over by a truck and her pelvis was crushed, nearly killing her.  Since Haines has no hospital, seriously ill or injured people have to be airlifted to the States.  She spent three weeks away from home and then months recuperating at home.  She writes honestly about her feelings, how she felt towards the man who drove the truck that injured her (being a small town, she already knew him) and her gratitude for her recovery as well as the guilt of seeing others who did not survive illness and accidents.

Essays talk about local tribal customs of the native people who make up much of the town, of such disparate items such as bear hunting, peace marches, making raspberry jam, cooking, religious ceremonies, sailing, choirs, and exercise.  Throughout every essay runs the thread of the pioneering, study spirit that characterizes the population of Haines, Alaska and the surrounding land.

Readers will be instantly charmed by these narratives.  In addition, there is much food for thought and how the reader would process various items.  A common reaction to the book is mine; as soon as I turned the last page, I went out and bought the author's other work as I couldn't stand to have my time with this town ended.  This book is recommended for all readers.

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