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Book Review: Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs by Heather Lende

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True confession =- my personal distaste for moralistic soapbox preaching that defines the bible belt of the American south had me predisposed to dismiss Ms. Lende’s book, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, before I even cracked the cover and got a good whiff of freshly printed paper.

Imagine my delight when not even 25 pages into the story, I spy a very favorite phrase of my very own: “Well, shit!”. And any writer who is familiar with Garrison Keillor’s alter ego, Guy Noir, is instantly on my radar as being worthy of a read.

Heather Lende was an obituary columnist for her hometown paper, the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska, but I truly think she has been channeled by the late great Erma Bombeck, the queen of working woman/mother humor. With the same killer timing and sass, Ms. Lende had me laughing out loud as I tried to read quietly beside my sleeping hubby (who is not as fond of late night reading marathons as I am).

The author really was run smooth over by a truck while out riding a bicycle on a beautiful Alaskan spring day. Her true story about her “bad break” is filled with “small miracles” of everyday life happenings in a small community; and, yes, she often quotes religious teachings and obviously is a very spiritual person.

But lest you think this is a book filled with heavy-handed proselytizing, I quote you her Tenth Thing to Think about after Being Hit by a Truck:

“And finally (and this is just between you and me), did you shave your legs today? Why do women care so much what other people think of them, even in an emergency?”

Like the perfect subtle humor that hallmarked the television series, Northern Exposure, Lende’s book tugs at your heartstrings while teasing your funnybone with wicked good prose. Emotional without being droolingly sentimental, she introduces you to a part of the United States few of us ever get to experience. Lende’s love of Alaska is palpable in her storytelling, and left me wishing I could sign up for an extended holiday way up north.

It seems I am a little slow in recognizing Ms. Lende; she has contributed to NPR’s Morning Edition radio program, and several top notch magazines including National Geograpic Traveler and Country Living. Her first book published in 2006, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name is in its seventh printing. Wow. (And I love that her website promotes local independent booksellers.)

Thanks to Leyane at FSB Associates for sending me a book that will keep a permanent place on my shelves next to my beloved Erma Bombeck, Ellen Meloy, and Barbara Kingsolver.

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