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).
What can I say about the previous month? Career-wise it was a busy month. I’m short staffed, budgets were due, accreditation teams loomed large, and my hockey team was breaking new records left and right. On the personal front friends were going through personal crisis after personal crisis (Just so you know, bad things are more than capable of arriving in multiples of five and six, not just three), I’m hip deep in planning a southwest trip with my sister and her sons, my mom’s dog is on Viagra, and! And. And, there was a little road race I always obsess about way too much. Somewhere in there I had a little time to read:
- Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais
- Topper by Thorne Smith
- Giant by Edna Ferber
- ADDED: Flashback by Nevada Barr – in honor of Barr’s birth month. (AB)
- ADDED: White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones – on honor of Alaska.
- Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
- Cherry by Sara Wheeler
- Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – I admit, I did not finish this one.
- Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- The Moor by Laurie R. King
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – finally finished
- Calypso by David Sedaris (AB)
- Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta
- Hidden Southwest by Ray Riegert
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die edited by Patricia Schultz
- Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne
- Arizona, New Mexico and Grand Canyon Trips by Becca Blond
Early Review for Librarything:
- Nothing. The book did not arrive in time to be reviewed in March.
Jones, Stan. White Sky, Black Ice. New York: Soho Press, 1999.
Reason read: Alaska’s Seward Day takes place in March.
The first book in Stan Jones’s Nathan Active series has the task of painting a picture of who Nathan Active is. The character development is slow in regards to Active’s personality. Jones spends a lot of time building the backstory of Active’s adoption after his fifteen year old Inupiat mother gave him up. He was raised by a white couple in Anchorage and grew up to be a state trooper. Here’s the rub: he has been posted back in his little birth village of Chukchi where he feels torn between the cultures of his upbringing and the traditions in his blood. He’s an obvious outsider, being raised in the big city. But when atypical suicides start happening one right after the other Active decides to listen to his ancestral roots and dig in.
Confessional: because White Sky, Black Ice takes an environmental spin I kept thinking of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She also tackles the theory that our planet is going to hell.
Author fact: Stan Jones launched the Kotzubue newspaper. He was also an editor for a couple of other newspapers.
Book trivia: White Sky, Black Ice is the first in the Nathan Active series.
Nancy said: Pear said nothing specific except to say White Sky, Black Ice is the first in a series.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the interesting chapter “All Set For Alaska” (p 14).
Stabenow, Dana. A fine and Bitter Snow. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002.
Reason read: to continue the sequel started in January in honor of the month Alaska became a state.
Kate is back. It’s been awhile since we last caught up with the feisty private investigating crime solver. In A Cold-Blooded Business she and single dad, Jack, were hot and heavy. Now several books later Jack is dead and Kate is sort of looking after his son from a previous marriage. As an FYI – Kate’s grandmother has also passed. In time, this detail will become important to the plot. For now, Kate needs a distraction from the grief these dual deaths have caused and, oddly enough, it comes in the form of oil drilling in southeast Alaska. Drilling in general has been a sensitive subject to all involved but when longtime friend and park ranger, Dan O’Brien, is deemed too environmentally friendly and is forced into early retirement, it becomes Kate’s mission to save his job. It becomes even more personal when a good friend of her grandmother’s is found murdered just days after agreeing to help Dan keep his job. Is the drilling in the wildlife preserve connected to this most recent death? State trooper, Jim Chopin, is on the case and he asks Kate to help…in more ways than one.
Confessional – I that this was the perfect pairing with Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior which is also an environmental drama.
Like I liked, “The moose might kick your ass and the grizzly might rip it off and the wolf might eat it, but they wouldn’t talk you to deal while they got on with the job” (p 232). This is Dana’s way of saying yeah, I know the woman is holding shotgun to Kate’s face and talking way too much, but I need to explain some motives here before she pulls the trigger.
Author fact: Stabenow also writes science fiction.
Book trivia: A Fine and Bitter Snow is Stabenow’s twelfth story.
Nancy said: nothing specific about A Fine and Bitter Snow.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).
We are nearly one full week into February and I have yet to report what is on the reading list. I have to admit, my other (non-book) life got in the way. I was selected for jury duty for a trial that lasted three days, a friend was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation for three days, an uncle was taken off hospice, and oh yeah, I turned fifty with my family and friends in attendance. The last week of January going into the first week of February was all a bit nutty. And. And! And, I am running again. So, there’s that. But enough of that. Here are the books:
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker (EB)- in honor of Walker’s birth month.
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch (EB & print) – in memory of Busch’s death month.
- Crossers by Philip Caputo (EB & print) – in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February.
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (EB & print) – in honor of Brazil’s festival.
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey (print) in honor of Yates’s birthday.
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (AB) in honor of February being Feed the Birds Month.
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (EB & print) – to continue the series started in honor of January being Mystery Month.
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett (print) – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (EB) – in honor of Asimov’s birth month being in January.
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (EB & print) – to continue the series started in January in honor of Alaska becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to Be a Patient by Dr. Sana Goldberg (confessional: I started this in January and haven’t finished it yet).
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
Stabenow, Dana. A Cold-Blooded Business. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1994.
Reason read: Alaska became a state in January.
Disclaimer: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series and since this is my first Kate Shugak mystery I feel like I jumped into it blind.
Kate Shugak is a private investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney’s office. In A Cold-Blooded Business her assignment is to go undercover at RPetCo, short for Royal Petroleum Company based in Prudhoe Bay up in the Arctic Circle. John King, CEO of RPetCo wants to know who has been dealing cocaine to his employees on company time. His main concern is overdoses are on the rise. There has even been a death by drowning linked to drug use. “Get that dope off my slope” he urges poetically.
Small pet peeve. Teeny tiny, really. On page 142 Kate is yearning for peace and quiet since her boyfriend’s young son, Johnny, “had the television on from the time he woke up till the time he went to bed.” However, not even eleven pages later Kate’s exposure to television is described as limited to Bernie’s television at the Roadhouse “eternally tuned into a basketball game” or Bobby’s set which existed “solely to be hooked up to a VCR” (p 152 – 153). I probably wouldn’t have squawked if the contradictory details weren’t so close together.
As an aside, what irked me from the beginning is that Kate is supposed to go undercover as a roustabout on the slope but within her first week on the job she meets a former medic/acquaintance from another job and a trooper who knows her name. She has to lie and say she’s no longer an investigator. Later she rushes to the first overdose on the job. Bursting into the room she encounters the victim is her cousin and he’s just as surprised to see her as she is him. Finally, Cindy Sovaluk, a woman she meets in the sauna turns out to know her grandmother. So much for undercover when four different people know your name or are related to you!
As another aside, are yearling bears really harmless enough to tug on their tails?
Author fact: Stabenow lives in Alaska and definitely knows the culture. That’s the obvious. What isn’t as obvious is just how many books Ms Stabenow has written. Check out her website here.
Book trivia: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series. I counted nineteen Shugak mysteries and I’m only reading two.
Nancy said: Pearl said Cold-Blooded Business is “her favorite Shugak mystery” (Book Lust p 18).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the unimaginative chapter called “Alaska” (p 17). I would have riffed off a Phish tune and called it “Alaska? I’ll Ask Her”.
I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
- A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
- The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
- Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
- Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.