Two Old Women, by Velma Wallis
Based on an Athabascan legend passed along from mother to daughter for many generations on the upper Yukon River in Alaska, this is the tragic and shocking story–with a surprise ending–of two elderly women abandoned by a migrating tribe that faces starvation brought on by unusually harsh Arctic weather and a shortage of fish and game. The story of survival is told with suspense by Velma Wallis, whose subject matter challenges the taboos of her past. Yet, her themes are modern–empowerment of women, the graying of America, Native American ways.
Twenty years after its first publication, Two Old Women (160 pages) continues to be a publishing phenomenon, despite scant national publicity. This word-of-mouth book has been translated into seventeen languages, selling more than 1.5 million copies. This twentieth anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the author, new afterword by the editor, and a discussion guide for book-group readers.
Winner of the Western State Book Award in 1993 and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award in 1994.
“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, Velma 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
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