Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer

As the obituary writer in tiny Haines, Alaska, Heather Lende helps people reflect on their loved ones' lives, distilling decades' worth of stories into brief, meaningful tributes. When asked to write an essay about words to live by, she came up with a simple truth: find the good. Those three words infuse Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer, a wise, witty memoir that combines anecdotes about Lende's work and family with plainspoken wisdom gleaned from her years of living in a small community.

Life isn't easy in Haines, and Lende (If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name) harbors no illusions about her neighbors: they are insightful, hardworking people, but they are no angels. As she meets with grieving families to gather information for obituaries, Lende does her best not to whitewash her subjects' life stories, but, indeed, to find--and celebrate--the good.

Lende admits her work can be exhausting as she deals with lives cut short by tragic accidents, deep wounds left unresolved. After swearing she's had enough of funerals, she attends one more service in the community hall. Longing to escape, she finds her heart cracked open, not just by grief but by love. "Rather than lunge for the exit, I enter the circle of caring," Lende writes. "For better or worse, I am committed, 'til we must part."

Whether she's interviewing a widow or gathering shells on the beach with her granddaughters, Lende tries to keep her newfound wisdom in mind. "Find the good. That's enough. That's plenty," she writes. Readers will no doubt agree. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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