Summary and book reviews of Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende

Of Bears and Ballots

An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics

by Heather Lende

Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende X
Of Bears and Ballots by Heather Lende
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jun 2020, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jamie Chornoby
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The writer whom the Los Angeles Times calls "part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott" now brings us her quirky and compassionate account of holding local office.

Heather Lende was one of the thousands of women inspired to take a more active role in politics during the past few years. Though her entire campaign for assembly member in Haines, Alaska, cost less than $1,000, she won! But tiny, breathtakingly beautiful Haines—a place accessible from the nearest city, Juneau, only by boat or plane—isn't the sleepy town that it appears to be: from a bitter debate about the expansion of the fishing boat harbor to the matter of how to stop bears from rifling through garbage on Main Street to the recall campaign that targeted three assembly members, including Lende, we witness the nitty-gritty of passing legislation, the lofty ideals of our republic, and how the polarizing national politics of our era play out in one small town.

With an entertaining cast of offbeat but relatable characters, Of Bears and Ballots is an inspirational tale about what living in a community really means, and what we owe one another.

★ ONE ★
Election Day

THERE ARE TWO polling places in Haines. One is in the arts center lobby, on the hill above the harbor and cruise ship dock, the other at the re hall in Mosquito Lake, a woodsy rural settlement twenty-six miles out of town. I voted at the arts center and said hi to everyone as I walked in, but I didn't say, "Wish me luck," or anything close to it. The public radio station, KHNS, and signs on the street corners reminded residents that no campaigning was allowed at or near polling places. One neighbor, who lives in an old house with a wide porch on Soap Suds Alley, was asked by the borough clerk to remove campaign signs from his yard since his home was too close to the polls. I did notice who was there voting, though, friends and foes, and wondered which side of the Haines left-right divide would be victorious. Either way, a little more than half of us would be happy, and a little less than half would be disappointed. Haines is predictable; I assumed it ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

As a politically impassioned reader, I found some of Lende's recommendations too idle. Particularly at a time when very real social injustices are inspiring mass organized action focused on race and police brutality, trying to convince readers that "it's just politics, not real life," feels unsettling and silencing. The personal is political. Despite this point of criticism, Of Bears and Ballots is an interesting and optimistic look at local politics in America. Although there are some unique challenges faced by those in rural Alaska, Haines is representative of a broader picture of American politics, and Lende's story offers some ideas as to how people might work together and move forward...continued

Full Review Members Only (750 words).

(Reviewed by Jamie Chornoby).

Media Reviews

New York Journal of Books
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.

Minneapolis Star Tribune
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...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.

Kirkus Reviews
A memoir from an idealistic older woman who won political office for the first time...Written in her usual sprightly, witty, humble, effervescent style, this one will please the author's fans.

Publishers Weekly
The result is an honest and inspirational investigation into why "it's easy to say what's wrong with government; it's harder to fix it, and progress can be very slow."

Library Journal
A heartfelt ode to civil service. Recommended for readers interested in government, civil service, and small-town life.

Author Blurb Tom Kizza, New York Times-bestselling author of Pilgrim's Wilderness and The Wake of the Unseen Object
Heather Lende has the voice of that friend down the street you love to chat with over coffee—the one who knows everything going on in town, but also knows the difference between gossip and storytelling.

Author Blurb Melody Warnick, author of This Is Where You Belong
Heather Lende's brave, big-hearted book about her run for local office fairly bursts with affection for her place and its people. By the end you'll be torn between wanting to move to Haines, Alaska, and wanting Heather to take the helm of your hometown." -

Author Blurb Bruce Botelho, former Mayor of Juneau, Alaska
An uplifting reminder that democracy works in America. While its setting is an extraordinary landscape of mountains, glaciers and the waters of Lynn Canal, the political scene and the cast of characters Lende captures will find resonance in every corner of America." -

Author Blurb Bill McKibben, author of Falter
Citizenship—real, active citizenship of the kind we badly need—is hard work, as this book makes clear. But it's also rewarding in a profound way; hopefully this will inspire people to work with and for their neighbors in all kinds of ways!" -

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Elizabeth Peratrovich and the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945

Black and white photograph of Elizabeth PeratrovichIn Of Bears and Ballots, Heather Lende reflects on the contributions of Elizabeth Peratrovich to Alaskan history during a community event celebrating the activist's life.

Elizabeth Peratrovich (1911-1958) worked tirelessly to achieve equality for Alaskan Natives. Those familiar with Peratrovich likely know of her role in passing the first anti-discrimination bill in the United States: Alaska's Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945. Her powerful testimony to Alaska's Territorial Legislature is believed to have split the opposition, allowing for the bill's passage. However, her commitment to civil rights and equality was lifelong.

Peratrovitch was born in Petersburg, Alaska as a member of the Tlingit Nation, an original people of the Pacific...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Heather Lende

If you liked Of Bears and Ballots, try these:

  • Death in Mud Lick jacket

    Death in Mud Lick

    by Eric Eyre

    Published 2021

    About this book

    From a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter from the smallest newspaper ever to win the prize in the investigative reporting category, an urgent, riveting, and heartbreaking investigation into the corporate greed that pumped millions of pain pills into small Appalachian towns, decimating communities.

  • The Sun Is a Compass jacket

    The Sun Is a Compass

    by Caroline Van Hemert

    Published 2020

    About this book

    The gripping story of a biologist's journey from Washington State to high above the Arctic Circle - traveling across remote and rugged terrain solely by human power - to rediscover birds, the natural world, and her own love of science.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join & Save $10!

Discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten. One-year membership: $29

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: One Night Two Souls Went Walking
    One Night Two Souls Went Walking
    by Ellen Cooney
    In One Night Two Souls Went Walking, we follow a young interfaith chaplain as she carries out her ...
  • Book Jacket: Truthtelling
    Truthtelling
    by Lynne Schwartz
    The word "unsayable" can mean something is too vast to be put into words. Alternatively, it can ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book Collectors
    The Book Collectors
    by Delphine Minoui
    About halfway through The Book Collectors, I was disappointed. I came into the book with a ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Sky Kingdom
    Blue Sky Kingdom
    by Bruce Kirkby
    Who hasn't dreamed of escaping all of the trappings of today's modern life and finding a secluded, ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Stories from Suffragette City
    by M.J. Rose & Fiona Davis (editors)

    One City.
    One Movement.
    A World of Stories.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Exiles
by Christina Baker Kline
The author of Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel.
Win This Book!
Win Jack

Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller

Enter to win Marilynne Robinson's latest novel in her classic series.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I G I O Ear A O T O

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.