Following the 2016 presidential election, writer Heather Lende, inspired to take a more active role in politics, runs for assembly member in Haines, Alaska-and wins. But tiny Haines-a place accessible from the nearest city, Juneau, only by boat or plane-isn't the sleepy town it appears to be.
In this fraught, bewildering American era, Heather Lende’s latest memoir is a blessed balm ... Lende is a graceful and endearing writer, recapitulating the kind of wily, folksy wit and wisdom we associate with, say, Mark Twain, so much more powerful than the predictable 'gotcha' snark of our social media age ... Most of all, Lende’s account resonates for its respect for every Haines resident who cares enough to show up at assembly meetings or her house to advocate, campaign or complain ... What a blessing Lende’s view of democracy, which she calls 'glorious chaos,' is in this dark era. 'So much depends on people of good will, and they are everywhere,' she writes. She reminds us about the dreams we share, especially now, as we cry for, and struggle to save, our beloved country.
Heather Lende offers a down-to-earth account of life in local politics in her fourth book set in Haines, her small Alaska town ... In chapters that feel like diary entries, including both workaday details and the author’s emotional state, Of Bears and Ballots meanders through Lende’s three-year term without much of a story arc ... At its best, the book showcases Lende’s folksy style and keen understanding of her small town’s culture ... This book will likely appeal more to Lende’s existing fans than to new readers, who are better off starting with her earlier books that deal with more lively topics.
Lende’s writing has a homespun, plainspoken quality; at certain moments, she writes like a grandmother telling a meandering tale through a series of slow-paced anecdotes and tangents that require patience from the reader ... But don’t let her artlessness fool you. She is well read and whip smart, and her undying optimism and faith in her fellow citizens offer a needed buoy in our current election climate. Her book is timely and relevant ... Politics matters, Lende reminds us, on every level — maybe, especially, the local — and we all need to do our part.