Injured Haines writer watches book take off

Posted: Monday, June 13, 2005

Haines writer Heather Lende was scheduled to come to Hearthside Books on Thursday and Friday to sign copies of her first book, "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name," a chronicle of the personalities of the upper Lynn Canal town of 2,265.

Those dates, along with her entire 17-stop publicity tour, were canceled in April, when she lost control of her bike and was run over by a pickup truck that had pulled out in front of her. One of the rear tires rolled over her abdomen, crushing six bones in her pelvis. She was medevaced to Seattle and spent almost a month in a hospital and nursing home.

Lende has been back in Haines since early May and is just starting to use a walker, rather than her wheelchair. Today, Haines doctor Leonard Feldman will start to remove the carbon-fiber rods that are holding together her pelvis. She'll spend at least eight weeks on crutches before she's well enough to travel anywhere.

In the meantime, Lende is staying busy with her job at the Chilkat Valley News, where she writes obituaries and the "Duly Noted" society column; her column in the Anchorage Daily News; her ongoing commentaries for National Public Radio's Morning Edition; and a series of radio interviews for "If You Lived Here."

The book came out three weeks ago and has been reviewed in USA Today and People Magazine. It was also named in the June installment of Book Sense 76, a list of must-read independent books picked by independent book sellers.

"I've been concentrating on healing, and it's sort of odd, the book came out right in the middle of this," Lende said. "I'm afraid it's taken a backseat to living."

Lende has lived in Haines all her adult life. Her husband, Chip, runs Lutak Lumber.

"If You Lived Here" has sold more than 350 copies at The Babbling Book in Haines. The store has already ordered 200 more. People in town seem to like it, which comes as a relief to Lende. The book explores the characters and history of Haines and doesn't change any of the names.

"The people at (the book company) agreed that everybody in Haines would be able to recognize everybody in the book anyway," Lende said. "There's gotta be somebody that's ticked off, but maybe because I was hit by a car they haven't talked to me about it."

The idea for the book arose four years ago, when literary agent Amy Gash heard one of Lende's segments on NPR. The premise was that Lende would share some of her radio commentaries and essays, along with some short stories on Alaska life.

"The pieces that we ended up liking the most were the ones that centered around my work at the Chilkat Valley News," Lende said. "I used to joke that I wanted to write the Great Alaska death book, only nobody was interested in that. It was neat for me when the person I was working with gave me the green light to try it."

One story tells the tale of Speedy Joe, a Haines man who always dressed in a red suit and hat. One night he drank too much and froze to death in his trailer.

"I debated putting him in it, because his death wasn't the kind of death that a family would like to remember," Lende said. "I got a note from his niece, who lives outside Palmer. She thought I handled it well and was thrilled that Speedy Joe was immortalized in my stories."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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