Eye of the Leopard

Mankell, Henning. The Eye of the Leopard. Translated by Steven T. Murray. New York: Random House, 2009.

Reason read: Read in honor of Levy Mwanawasa Day in Zambia.

Jumping between Hans Olofson’s Swedish childhood in Norrland and adult life in Mutshatsha, Africa, Eye of the Leopard depresses its reader with hopelessness and failure. Hans tries to escape memories of a father driven to drink out of loneliness and a series of personal tragedies by embarking on the quest that once belonged to a now deceased girlfriend. Janine wanted to see the mission station and grave of a legendary missionary, but as a 25 year old white European, Hans is confronted with grim realities. Janine’s dream is not his to obtain. Not only is he sorely out of place due to ignorance, his skin color is monumentally hated. A series of abandonments haunt him: his father left him for the bottle, Janine died, his best friend disowned him, and his mother just plain vanished when he was a small child. Sweden was a mediocre existence; an ultimate dead end. Even Africa is not what he envisioned for himself. Despite being ready to leave as soon as he arrives, Olofson takes a job on an egg farm. His own actions confound him. While Africa gives him a clean slate from everyone who deserted him and every failure he experienced in Norrland, he can’t imagine calling a place like Africa home.
The title of the novel comes from Olofson’s obsessive hallucination of a leopard in the African bush. The leopard comes to be symbolic of everything Olofson can’t escape.

Quotes that got me, “It is a constant reminder of a sailor who wound up in the utterly wrong place, who managed to make landfall where there wasn’t any sea,” “In every person’s life there are ill-considered actions, trips that never needed to be taken,” and “He feels like a conman who has grown tired of not being unmasked.”

Author fact: Mankell traveled to Africa. Many suspect parts of Eye of the Leopard to be autobiographical.

Book trivia: Eye of the Leopard is a departure from Mankell’s Swedish mysteries. Incidentally, there was a National Geographic documentary of the same name produced in 2006. Completely unrelated to the book, though.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Eye of the Leopard except to say it takes place in Zambia, just after it achieved independence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the penultimate chapter simply called “Zambia” (p 266).


Lobster Coast

Woodard, Colin. Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier. New York: Viking, 2004.

Reason read: the Lobster Festival is usually held the first week in August in Rockland, Maine. Kisa and I had the pleasure of attending the festival the same year Zoe was selling her calendar. To add to the personal element of this, Zoe and I attended the same school.

To live in Maine is to subscribe and ultimately surrender to a certain way of life. It is a proud life; an independent life. Take no grief from anyone and never ask for help. As they like to say, Mainers have grit.
Woodard is redundant in places and seems to skip around some, but for the most part his book, Lobster Coast is well researched and is an accurate portrayal of a way of life. It is a thoroughly engaging historical look back at Maine’s fierce independence. From the very beginning there has been a strong distrust of strangers, well entrenched prejudices against “newcomers” and non-natives.

Confessional: It is weird to read about my community, as in the physical place and the actual people who call Monhegan home. I read the first chapter of Lobster Coast with a smirk brought on by bias. Most of the names mentioned have been in my life since I first arrived on Monhegan as a five year old child. I know much of what Woodard speaks of intimately. The places haven’t changed much. Monhegan House, Black Duck, Shining Sails, the Museum, just to name a few. And the people…! I won’t name names but someone gave me a spanking right there on Fish Beach when they caught me and my best friend trying to start a bonfire. I think I was six. Someone else tried to teach me gymnastics, and (at the tender age of ten), all I could do was stare at the dark and curly pubic hairs escaping from her too-tight leotard. Someone else handed me my first beer…

Author fact: Woodard has contributed to The Chronicle of Higher Education and was born and raised in Maine.

Book trivia: Sadly, there are no photographs in Lobster Coast.

Nancy said: Pearl named Lobster Coast as one “reader-friendly micro-histories of the lobster industry” (Book Lust To Go p 136). I would say it is more of a history of the state of Maine, with a focus on lobstering.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


The Girl Who Played with Fire

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July in honor of the Swedish festivals.

Here is the great thing about the continuation of Larsson’s “The Girl…” series. He doesn’t spend a lot of time recounting what happened in the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is as if he depends on you to immediately pick up the next book in the series order to keep the drama going at breakneck speed. Larsson does fill you in wherever necessary for the sake of plot flow; and to catch you up in case you have forgotten some small detail. How he knows that. I don’t know. For the most part, The Girl Who Played with Fire is its own story in and of itself.
Lisbeth Salander is “growing up” before our eyes. You cannot help but like this tough, odd woman-child. She starts removing tattoos and piercings, not because she wants to change her identity (although those simple changes and breast implants alter her previously recognizable look considerably), but rather because she is changing internally. She is starting to feel things which may or may not be a good thing. After being away from Sweden from a year she comes home which definitely is not a good thing. I won’t go into the details, but Lisbeth finds herself accused of a triple murder which is a brilliant move on Larsson’s part. This allows for Lisbeth’s past to be revealed under intense scrutiny. Many questions about Lisbeth’s character come to light.
Meanwhile, Salander’s former flame, Mikael Blomkrist, is busy as editor back at Millennium. Mikael continues to be the ladies’s man, this time starting a relationship with the very woman he was asked to find in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Considering how that book ended, this may or not be a good thing as well.

Author fact: Stieg’s given first name is Karl.

Book trivia: The Girl Who Played with Fire was made into a Swedish film (2009) and a television miniseries (2010).

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Girl Who Played with Fire.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It.” (p 222).


Lisey’s Story

King, Stephen. Lisey’s Story: a Novel. New York: Scribner, 2006.

Reason read: in honor of going to Maine for two weeks I decided to read a Maine author. Everyone knows Stephen King.

Many view this work of Stephen King’s as a “different” kind of horror story, and while I found that to be true, it didn’t hook me the way other King stories have. There was a great deal of terminology repetition that should have kept me questioning what it all meant, but really didn’t (constant reference to blood-bools, smucking, smuckup, strapping it on, SOWISA, to name a few…).
Widow Lisey Landon has a stalker who is after her dead husband’s papers. As a well known and prize winning author, his unpublished manuscripts could be worth a fortune. We don’t know how Scott died, but we do know he survived an assassination attempt and Lisey has other memories too terrible to recall. Her horrible thoughts are repeatedly cut off in mid-sentence, a tactic designed to keep the reader in suspense, but ultimately ended up annoying this particular reader. In the winter of 1996 something happened; something that was too terrible to conjure completely. Lisey stops herself from thinking through her memory.
It is true that damaged people seek out other damaged people to form a warped kind of kinship. It is only natural that Scott, a product of unspeakable abuse and horror, should gravitate towards Lisey whose own sister practices self-mutilation (and ultimately falls into a catatonic state). Lisey sees all the warning signs before marrying Scott but decides to ignore them. The good moments far outweigh the bad. Isn’t that always the way in abusive relationships?
King is an expert at hinting at danger to come. There is always something ominous lurking around the corner, just out of sight. Hints, whispers, winking in the dark like strands of smoke from an arson’s fire…

Author fact: King said this is one of his favorites and always pictured it as a television series. Rumor has it, a network is doing just that.

Book trivia: King always wanted to make Lisey’s Story into a serial television show. It was made into a mimi series starring Julianne Moore.

Nancy said: Pearl says she “frequently suggest[s]” Lisey’s Story as a horror book that isn’t too horrible. She also claims it is a good book for book groups, as well (Book Lust To Go p 136).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. New York: Dial Press, 2008.

Reason read: Poland usually celebrates a music festival in August. Probably not this year. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society does not take place in Poland, nor has anything to do with Poland.

Epistolary novels are always fun to read. The trick for the author is to make each letter-writer’s voice different. I would like to imagine Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows writing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by writing back and forth to each other because the exchanges are very well done. However, I know that Shaffer asked Barrows to assist in finishing the book when she became ill.
So, for the plot: Imagine it is January 1946. The Second Great War has come to a close and everyone is dealing with the aftermath, especially England. London writer and biographer Juliet Ashton receives a letter out of the blue from a man in the Channel Islands. He is a complete stranger but has read Ashton’s article on Charles Lamb. Of course Ashton writes back as soon as she hears the gentleman is a member of the curious society called the Guernsey and Potato Peel on the island of Guernsey. Soon Ashton gets the idea to write a piece about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It all started with an illegal roast pig supper…What follows is not your typical romance or even your typical historical novel about the German occupation during World War II, but a strange and wonderful combination of the two.

Best quote to quote, “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books” (p 53).

Author(s) facts: Mary Ann Shaffer was a librarian and an editor who died in 2008. Annie Barrows is Shaffer’s niece.

Book trivia: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a New York Times Bestseller.

Nancy said: In the chapter “Guernsey: History in Fiction” Pearl called Shaffer’s book “excellent” (p 90), but in “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181), Pearl compared another book to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

BookLust Twist: a double mention in Book Lust To Go. First, in the chapter called simply “Guernsey: History in Fiction” (p 90), and then in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181). Disclaimer: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society has nothing to do with Poland and should not be mentioned in “Polish Your Polish.” It’s another one of those “if you like this book, then you will love this book” mentions.


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Random House, 2008.

Reason read: Sweden festival of Trastock occurs in July.

Mikael Blomkrist put his tail between his legs when he lost a libel suit brought against him by multimillionaire Hans-Erik Wennestrom. Unlike the United States where if you are convicted of a crime you immediately start serving your sentence, in Sweden Blomkrist is allowed to travel to the coastal town of Hedestad to help an old man solve the case of his missing niece under the guise of writing Henrik Vanger’s storied biography. Beware, it’s a huge family tree so study it well.
Meanwhile, back in Stockholm Croatian born Dragan Armansky, financial director, CEO and COO of Milton Security, and expert in financial fraud is investigating Blomkrist. He knows there is more to the story than what was exposed in court. How can a top notch journalist screw up so badly? He puts his best researcher on the case. If anyone can dig up the dirt it’s Lisbeth Sander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Known only as Wasp in certain circles, Lisbeth could pass for a child if it weren’t for a bunch of punk face piercings, a really bad attitude, and a steel trap memory.
It goes without saying Sander and Blomkrist team up. Together, they uncover corporate corruption and a horror that runs far deeper than the mystery of a missing niece.

Confessional: when I stand over a tombstone, the first thing I do after reading the deceased’s name is to do the math to figure out how old they were when they died. Is that horrible of me? In the beginning of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there is a family tree. I was surprised to see at least four people died at a young age and immediately knew that would be part of the mystery.

Author fact: Larsson died in 2004 after delivering the manuscripts for his “Girl with…” series.

Book trivia: I think everyone knows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was made into a movie. I also think everyone has seen it but me.

Nancy said: Pearl called Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an immediate best seller.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the odd chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).


The Country of the Pointed Firs

Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.

Reason read: July marked the first time I have spent more than ten days on Monhegan since 1992. I wanted to celebrate Maine with a simple book.

It could take you a day to read The Country of the Painted Firs. A mere 88 pages in length, you could spend just an afternoon with Ms. Jewett’s novel. That being said, I urge you to take more time with this sweet little book. This is portrait of turn of the century coastal Maine living at its simplest and most honest. Jewett illustrates a time when hospitality, good manners, friendship and community mattered most. While there is not much of a plot, the characters are carefully crafted. Today, the people you meet throughout all of Maine are just as colorful and hard working as they were in Jewett’s fictional town of Dunnet Landing. The statement, “One trade helps another” as one character says, is as true today as it was in 1896 when Country of the Pointed Firs was first published.

Author fact: Jewett was from South Berwick, Maine. Her full name was Theodora Sarah Orne Jewett, named for her father, Theodore.

Book trivia: Henry James and Ursula K. LeGuin both reviewed The Country of the Pointed Firs and declared it a masterpiece.

Nancy said: Pearl said Country of the Pointed Firs “is the perfect choice when you are feeling overwhelmed with the weight of the contemporary world” (More Book Lust p 57), and “a classic that has kept its charm” in Book Lust To Go (p 135).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 57), and from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Shadow of the Wind

Zafron, Carlos Ruiz. Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Lucia Greives.

Reason read: the pilgrimage to El Rocio occurs in July.

When we first meet Daniel Sempre he is ten years old and his father has just introduced him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel has been granted the choice of one book as a birthday present. By chance, he chooses Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. So the mystery begins. Daniel is no ordinary boy. When he was very young he coveted a fountain pen reputed to once belong to Jules Verne. His father would accompany him weekly to “visit” this pen in a storefront window. [As an aside, what ten year old would utter, “all the evidence to the contrary”? Had he been reading Sherlock Holmes?] Moving on from the pen, Daniel becomes fascinated with writer Julian Carax and the mystery surrounding him. From there, the mystery deepens to the point of harrowing. Shadows become dangerous. Secrets become lethal. It’s a story within a story best savored slow.

Quotes I just had to quote, “A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept” and “To truly hate is an art one learns with time.”

As an aside, when I read the quote, “Childhood devotions make unfaithful and fickle lovers” I was reminded of Charles Causely’s poem, “Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” when he wrote, “Where are all the other girls and boys and why have you brought me children’s toys?”

Author fact: Sadly, Carlos Ruiz Zafron just passed away, reportedly from colon cancer.

Book trivia: Shadow of the Wind was an international bestseller and translated into dozens of languages.

Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said about Shadow of the Wind is that it offered a “vivid picture” of Spain.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain.” (p 220). How simple can you get?


Beautiful Place To Die

Nunn, Malla. A Beautiful Place To Die. Read by Saul Reichlin. New York: Atria Books, 2009.

Reason read: South African began self-governing on July 11, 1931.

Detective Sargent Emmanuel Cooper makes his debut in A Beautiful Place To Die as the only officer put in charge of solving the murder of an important Afrikaner in the small South African town of Jacob’s Rest. This is no ordinary murder. This Afrikaner is Dutch-born Captain Pretorius and despite this being 1952 apartheid South Africa, Pretorius is liked and respected by everyone. Pretorius’s strapping four sons are out for blood while racial tensions clash with color blind desires.
An Englishman, Emmanuel Cooper comes to the case as a complete outsider. He also comes with personal baggage from his soldier days in World War II. He can’t shake daytime memories and haunting nightmares. He often hears voices and has an unfortunate deep addiction to pain medication; medication he feels is necessary to tame real and imagined injuries. To complicate matters, the Security Branch in charge of flushing out black communist radicals stand in Cooper’s way of solving the crime. National Party laws crack down on acts of immortality between blacks and whites and Copper has plenty of suspects on either side of the color divide.

Quotes, “The world is a cruel place for old soldiers” and ” His smile was a trench…”

Author fact: A Beautiful Place to Die is Malla Nunn’s first novel. She is an award winning filmmaker.

Book trivia: A Beautiful Place To Die won a 2009 Davitt Award.

Nancy said: Pearl includes A Beautiful Place to Die in the category of “Break Your Heart” books as a contemporary mystery.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 7).


Garden of the Gods

Durrell, Gerald. Garden of the Gods. New York: Penguin books, 1978.

Reason read: to “finish” the series started in May. Finish is in quotes because there are more books in the series, but I am not reading them for the Challenge.

Durrell has again dug back into his childhood and the four year stint on the Greek island of Corfu for the next installment of his memoir series. This time sister Margo’s relationships and brother Leslie’s gun obsession take more of a center stage but don’t worry, Gerald’s “pets” still abound. He still has plenty of stories regarding the mishaps involving animals. Another constant is all of the Durrell children continue to lie to mother and she continues to eat it up, no questions asked, just like one of Gerald’s baby birds.
I have to wonder if the family was as fun loving and accepting of the practical jokes and antics as they seem to be? What kind of household welcomes perfect strangers into their home as guests? Especially ones with no intention of leaving? And speaking of guests, what mother would put up with dead birds falling at her feet while she tried to entertain a prominent guest?
All in all, exaggerated antics aside, Garden of the Gods is a charming and funny book.

Best quote, “My first fear was that my beautiful horns might be broken, my second, that my brother might be dead” (p 527).

Author fact: the internet is littered with a myriad of pictures of Durrell. He looks more comfortable with his animal friends than the humans.

Book trivia: the American version of Garden of the Gods was published as Fauna and Family in 1978.

Nancy said: Pearl wasn’t as enamored with Garden of the Gods as Durrell’s first book. The sequel is “not up to the joyful perfection of the first book” (Book Lust To Go, p 70), but she does admit that it is humorous.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Corfu” (p 70).


Murder on the Orient Express

Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express. Read by David Suchet. New York: Harper Collins, 2013.

Reason read: July is the month smoke-generating trains were outlawed in New York in 1908. The first electric train ran in 1904.

The first thing you need to know about Murder on the Orient Express is that while it is a widely known title and probably one of Christie’s most popular, it is actually the eighth mystery novel to feature Belgian Inspector, Hercule Poirot. This time he is traveling back to London via the Orient Express. Despite the train being full, Poirot is able to obtain a first class berth, thanks to a friend who works for the railroad. On the very first night an unsavory passenger is stabbed twelve times and dies of his injuries. Initially, this was to be a three-day journey, but travel is halted due to a large storm dropping massive amounts of snow on the tracks. Since no one can get on or off the train, finding the killer should be easy. In true Poirot style the case is solved with wit and humor. The interrogations are the best.

For Murder on the Orient Express, Christie drew from different real-life events for inspiration. First, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 and her own experiences traveling the Orient Express.

Best quote, “Americans, as you know, don’t care what they pay.”

Author fact: Agatha Christie was a VAD in the First World War.

Book trivia: Murder on the Orient Express was made into two movies, three separate radio programs, three different television series, a play, and a video game. I told you it was popular!

Nancy said: Interestingly enough, Pearl first mentioned Murder on the Orient Express in relation to another book, The 8:55 to Baghdad, by Andrew Eames. Later in the chapter she includes Murder as a “classic crime novel.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Making Tracks By Train” (p 138).


Nampally Road

Alexander, Meena. Nampally Road. San Francisco: Mercury House, 1991.

Reason read: In honor of the International Flower Festival, held in the month of May.

While barely one hundred pages long, Nampally Road shouts a clear message of India. Protagonist and poet, Mira Kannadical returns to Hyderabad, India after four years studying in England. She has come home to teach poetry, but finds her neighborhood in a constant state of civil unrest; a battle field where violence and tear gas clouds are everyday occurrences. Police brutality and political corruption hold the community in paralyzed fear, especially after a woman is gang-raped by police officers and left for dead in a prison cell. Not many are willing to rock the boat after a group of orange sellers are attacked for protesting taxes. Mira is dating an activist who thinks differently. This suspends Mira in conflict as she tries to reconcile her beliefs with the changes of modern India.

Quotes to quote, “It was if the bloodshed in the afternoon already belonged in another country” (p 9) “I suffered from dislocation” (p 29), and “He died a safe death, in another country, under the gentle shade of the tamarind tree” (p 96).

Author fact: Alexander has written a great deal of poetry, but Nampally Road was her first novel. She died in 2018.

Book trivia: Illustrations are by Pablo Haz.

Nancy said: Pearl included Nampally Road as a book “by Indian writers (many of whom now live in England, Canada, or the United States” (p 127).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: A Reader’s Itinerary (Fiction)” (p 125).


Baking Cakes in Kigali

Parkin, Gaile. Baking Cakes in Kigali. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009.

Reason read: the Rwanda genocide happened on April 6th, 1994. Read in memory of that event.

Respected as a skilled baker in her new Rwandan community, Angel Tungaraza also acts as a voice of reason and likes to solve her customer’s problems whether they ask for her help or not (think of a bartender or hair dresser; someone who can listen to one’s woes and offer advice for the sheer sake of chitchat). Drawing from her life in Tanzania, she manages to help her friends and neighbors in unique ways. Angel isn’t without her faults, though. She protects her reputation fiercely and can come across as snobbish when she doesn’t approve of the cake someone else has baked or designed. If the customer chooses colors and styles that are “boring” in Angel’s opinion she secretly scoffs at them. She also carries a secret shame; one that she cannot even admit to herself.
Throughout Baking Cakes in Kigali I was comparing Angela to Angela Lansbury in “Murder, She Wrote.” Only instead of murders, Angel Tungaraza muddles her way through issues such as adultery, ritual cutting, equal rights for women, and racial prejudices; tackling the aftershocks of societal catastrophes such as AIDS and the Rwandan genocide.

Author fact: Parkin also wrote When Hoopoes Go to Heaven which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Many, many people compared Baking Cakes in Kigali to Alexander McCall Smith’s series.

Nancy said: Pearl called Baking Cakes in Kigali “charming.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).


Rage of the Vulture

Unsworth, Barry. Rage of the Vulture. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.

Reason read: March is (or was) a good time to visit Turkey. I thought I had gotten rid of all the “good time to visit” reasons, but I guess there was one straggler. Oh well.

As an aside, I am always daunted by books with lists of characters. It’s as if the author is warning the reader, “I have included so many people you won’t be able to keep up.” One character I could not wrap my empathy around was Captain Robert Markham. He’s not very lovable as the main protagonist. He doesn’t connect with his ten year old son except to see him as a rival for his wife’s affections. It’s as if he doesn’t know what to do with his boy, Henry. This fact is not lost on the kid. Meanwhile, Robert treats his wife as an ornamental yet extremely fragile vase he parades out and places front and center during social occasions. His saves his sexual appetite for Henry’s governess. He all but rapes this poor girl because he has told her his truth; his Armenian fiance was raped and murdered twelve years earlier at their engagement party. What happens when all these secrets are revealed and Markham’s world starts to unravel? It’s an interesting dilemma.

Lines that got me (and there were a lot of them so I will try to keep this to a minimum), “He seemed to live behind some contrived fence, as ill or afflicted people do” (p 22), and “He would silence this voice of consolation which sought to make his apostasy trivial” (p 231).

Author fact: Unsworth also wrote Sacred Hunger which is also on my list.

Book trivia: I could picture this as a movie.

Nancy said: In Book Lust To Go Pearl recommended Rage of the Vulture as a book written by a non-Turkish writer. In More Book Lust Pearl mentions Rage of the Vulture as a historical novel and describes the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Turkish Delights: Fiction” (p 239). Also in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction (p 79).


Two Old Women

Wallis, Velma. Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival. New York: Perennial, 1993.

Reason read: Seward Day is in March.

Two old women do not know each other very well before being abandoned by their People. Surviving the wilds of Arctic Circle Alaska is serious business, especially when you are elderly. Winter is closing in, food is scarce, and it is time for the tribe to be moving on. The Athabaskan Chief and his Council make the tough decision to leave their weakest behind in order to survive the harsh elements. This means seventy-five year old Sa’ and eighty year old Ch’idzigyaak are left to fend for themselves: finding food, making clothes, securing shelter, and staving off loneliness. These women are tough and resourceful, which makes for great perseverance.
Spoiler alert. This has a happy ending so you know the women survive. That wasn’t the plot twist for me. What I didn’t expect was the women’s fear of their tribe “finding” them again. They were suspicious of potential malevolent behavior (including cannibalism) if they were discovered to have survived. Even when they are reunited with their People, it takes time to trust them again. Who can blame them?

In my modern day society, I thought could not imagine a society where a community leaves its elderly behind, knowing full well they will probably will die. But then again, oh wait. I do. Italy, March 2020. They had to make the hard decision to not offer ventilators to anyone over the age of 80. Survival of the fittest.

Quote I liked best, “The body needs food but the mind needs people” (p 65).

Author fact: Wallis was born in the Alaskan interior. Two Old Women is her first novel.

Book trivia: Two Old Women was illustrated by James Grant.

Nancy said: Pearl actually didn’t chose Two Old Women. She asked author Dana Stabenow to select some Alaskan titles. Stabenow said Two Old Women is very controversial in Alaska.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “All Set For Alaska” (p 15).