You should read The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron. I suspect this wonderful story owes a large debt to Jean Auel’s 1980s series Earth' Children, which began with Clan. The book’s structure is interesting, with the modern day archeologist narrator imagining the story behind her find of a Neanderthal skeleton and a modern day human buried side by side. The burial looks intentional, and would help her prove the interrelationship between our early ancestors and ourselves. The archeologist’s reputation is also at stake regarding her find, and pardon the horrible pun, but proving her thesis will help make her professional bones.
Maya Angelou’s quote “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you have been” is very applicable. From the prologue:
They were kind and clever. They had hands with opposable thumbs and a light dusting of hair on their backs.They had hearts that throbbed in their chests when they saw certain people, and this happened more than you might expect. Their brains were larger than ours by about 10 percent. Many of us have inherited up to 4 percent of their DNA, and now that both genomes have been sequenced, we we know that theirs differs from ours by only about 0.12 percent.
Claire Cameron very successfully interweaves the experiences of a modern day woman and that of a woman of forty thousand years ago. This tale isn’t as over the top as Clan, so in some ways it's more believable and credible. The modern day dialogue is so accurate that for an extended time one late night I forgot I was reading fiction.
Penguin Random House/Anchor Canada, 2017
2017 Finalist Rogers Writers’ Trust
A National Post Best Book of the Year