Gilbert Cruz
May 23, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In 1982, New Yorker Heather Lende got married and drove a Chevy pickup to Alaska. She settled in Haines, a tiny fishing town of about 2,400 people in the state’s southeastern panhandle. Lende, the obituary writer for Haines’ weekly paper and an NPR regular, writes an autobiographical love letter to this isolated community in If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name.

Haines is a place of natural beauty where death comes easily. Planes crash into mountains, hikers are buried by mud slides, and the sea swallows boats whole. Each chapter of Lende’s book is anchored by an obit, and she reiterates Haines’ dangers, though her pelvis-crushing accident last month (she was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle) has put things in perspective. ”If I can get run over putzing down the street,” says Lende, 45, ”I don’t think I’ll be worried as much about taking a small plane over the mountains.”

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