Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: Family, Friendships, and Faith in Small-town Alaska

Book cover with moose riding a bicycle
Heather Lende
3
Monday, Apr 24, 2017

Alaska. I imagine it’s the most remote you can get while remaining on American soil. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to pack your bags and move there, save yourself the trip and read Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs first.

Lende, an obituary writer in the small town of Haines, brings her friends, family, and neighbors to life. And life is different there. Short growing seasons, the speed with which a “moose can turn a ten-year-old apple orchard into a few stumpy sticks or the way even a very young bear can rip the branches right off of a loaded cherry tree, not to mention how easily a brown bear can break down a chicken coop door,” makes even feeding one's family a unique experience. Shipping food from Seattle turns a box of Cheerios into a luxury item, not just for the monetary cost, but for the carbon footprint as well. So Lende and her family have learned to hunt and gather, including animals they didn’t originally feel comfortable eating.

Lende also writes of being run over by a truck: what she remembers of the accident, her recovery, and the shape of forgiveness when it finally comes. She grapples with questions like, “when is it okay to decide that you don’t need to do your best” and “that you have built enough character for one lifetime?”

Lende has a strong faith that informs her thoughts and actions. Like Anne Lamott, Lende doesn’t preach or scold; she simply shares how her faith shapes her life. Like Lamott, who shares her blessings and struggles in Oakland, CA, Lende shares her blessings and the struggles in Haines, Alaska. And she does so beautifully.

Written by Helen H.

Fun fact: I adore furry faces.