Based 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, 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).
Gr 7 Up-Velma Wallis adapted her prize-winning book (HarperPerennial, 1993) from a tale she first heard from her mother, an Athabascan Indian in the Alaskan Yukon. Its transition into audio format is impressive: taken from oral tradition, it's tellable and starkly poetic, while the deep rich voice of narrator Russell Means with his Native American inflections does much to enhance its power and authenticity. The story is compelling. Abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine, two old women are left to perish on their own. Although they've grown used to complaining and letting others do for them, the two resolve not to wait passively for death but to fight against it. With trapping skills they haven't used for years and strengthened by their bond of friendship, the two women survive the winter to ultimately come face to face with the members of their tribe, none of whom has fared as well as they. Utterly convincing in its details and resolution, this will offer listeners in seventh grade and up vivid insight into a Native American culture. At the same time, it rises above the particulars of time and place to become a metaphor with a message or inspiration not only for students, women or the elderly, but for all members of the human race.-Carol Katz, Harrison Public Library, NY