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Review: Two Old Women by Velma Wallis

Title: Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival

Author: Velma Wallis
Year published: 1993
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 128 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (AL)

SummaryBased on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking, ultimately inspirational tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine.

Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying. In simple but vivid detail, Wallis depicts a landscape and way of life that are at once merciless and starkly beautiful. In her old women, she has created two heroines of steely determination whose story of betrayal, friendship, community, and forgiveness "speaks straight to the heart with clarity, sweetness, and wisdom" (Ursula K. Le Guin).

Review: I am in Alaska so thought it was appropriate to read at least one book about the state. I found this on in the Wrangell, Alaska museum. It won the 1993 Western States Book Award and the 1994 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award.

I was immediately pulled into the story of these two women as their family/tribe left them to die in a cold, harsh winter. It seems so cruel, but I can also see how this was something that a group would need to do. The women couldn't keep up and couldn't contribute, but how harsh.

I like that the women became self-sufficient, used their knowledge from living long lives, supported one another, and bested the odds. I liked the tone, the descriptions of their year-long struggle, and their interactions with nature. The ending is fitting of a story that is meant to teach us a lesson (but I won't give it away in case you read it). I loved this story and am so glad I read it.

Challenges for which this counts: none

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