Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River area 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 two 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 will carve out a permanent place in readers’ imaginations.
The death of their drunken father strands ten-year-old Toughboy and his younger sister at a remote fishing cabin on the Yukon River near Ruby, Alaska, where they spend a summer trying to cope with dwindling food supplies and hostile wildlife.
Two orphaned siblings struggle to survive a harsh Alaskan winter looking after a badly wounded miner, while their guardian, an old Athabascan Indian who has taught them the ways of their ancestors, searches for help.