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Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments Start discussion here for Two Old Women by Velma Wallis.


message 2: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (last edited Dec 15, 2018 08:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments About the Book (from Kirkus Reviews)

"Enchanting retelling--and a 1993 Western States Book Award winner--of a tribal legend about two old women, left behind to die, who instead went on to survive and thrive. Wallis--one of 13 siblings with their roots in the Athabaskan tribe of Alaska--used to listen to her mother tell stories every night after the day's hard work was done. The story of the two old women was a favorite: In a winter of famine, the tribe decides to leave behind two elderly women, who although mobile and somewhat productive, complain constantly and require assistance. Some people are shocked and distressed, but no one, including the daughter of one of the women, speaks up, afraid of precipitating violence in the tribe. As the tribe marches off, the two women, 75 and 80 years old, vow they will ``die trying.'' They manage to catch a few rabbits and a squirrel to sustain them, then set off to a campsite miles away where, they recall, food is more abundant. They reach their goal, survive the winter, and spend the summer laying in a store of foodstuffs that will eventually sustain the whole tribe when it returns in search of them. Wallis recounts the tale here in simple but vivid detail, describing a life of unremitting labor in an extraordinary landscape. The story speaks to many modern concerns--abandonment or isolation of old men and women in nursing homes and retirement communities; the elderly's perhaps unwitting view of themselves as a privileged elite, but one which greatly underestimates its capabilities; the way in which the greatest good for the greatest number can lead to injustice and even cruelty, and in which trust, once broken, takes time and hard work to repair. Full of adventure, suspense, and obstacles overcome--an octogenarian version of Thelma and Louise triumphant."

About the Author (excerpted from Everipedia)
Velma Wallis (born 1960) is a Native American writer of Gwich'in Athabascan Indian descent. A best-selling author, her books have been translated into 17 languages.

She was born and raised in a remote near Fort Yukon, approximately 200 km (120 mi) northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. This location could be accessed only by riverboat, airplane, snowmobile or dogsled. Velma grew up among 12 siblings.


Laurie | 630 comments I read this last week, and I found it enjoyable and enlightening. The horror the two women felt by being left behind by their tribe in the dead of an Alaskan winter is palpable. One of the women had no family to protest the decision, but the other had a daughter and young grandson. It is realistic to me that the daughter was too afraid to speak up for fear the tribe would leave the whole family behind.

While the old women were still useful to the tribe, they had allowed themselves to become loud complainers. This trait probably made the decision to abandon them much easier to some of the tribal leaders. And of course starvation meant that the weakest tribe members would be the first to go if necessary. I liked that the women began to regain skills from their youth that had been forgotten from disuse over the years. They had the ability to trap and gather food and make shelters but had not needed to do so for many years. And best of all, they discovered a real will to live when they worked together and saw that it wasn't entirely hopeless.


message 4: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12949 comments A quick read and a pleasant surprise. I didn't even know this book existed prior to its nomination. Overall, a very enjoyable book.


message 5: by Melinda (new)

Melinda Brasher | 31 comments I read this a few years ago, and enjoyed it a lot--especially the details of Native American life in Alaska during a bad winter.


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