"Ayla, I've looked for you all my life and didn't know I was looking. You are everything I've ever wanted, everything I ever dreamed of in a women, and more. You are a fascinating enigma, a paradox. You are totally honest, open; you hide nothing yet you are the most mysterious women I've ever met."
Earth's Children #1 - Clan of the Cave Bear
This is the second book the the Earth's Children series. I still not exactly sure how to categorize it. Some sort of cave people version of Romeo and Juliet with some Fifty Shades thrown in there, perhaps? The first part reminded me a lot of a more adult version of one of my favorite books as a child, Island of the Blue Dolphin.
This novel begins right after Ayla has been forced out of the Clan (a group of Neanderthals) when Broud becomes the new leader. Forced away from the only people she has ever know, she must survive on her own. She is haunted by the lose of her family, especially her young son Durc. Ayla is determined to find the the people she was born to whom the Clan refers to as "the others." No longer restrained to the ancient ways of the Clan, she is able to experiment with new ways of hunting, making a fire, and craftmanship. She find a valley inhabited by horses and adapts a baby horse that she names Winnie. Completely alone, she begins to treat the foul as her pet and later adapts a baby lion cub as well as Winne's foul.
Intertwined in Ayla's story is the adventure of two young brothers, Jondalar and Thonolan. As part of the Zelandoni tribe, they are the people that Ayla was born to (Cro-Magnons). On their long journey, the brothers meet many different groups of people along the way. The live with the Sharamudoi for a period of time after Thonolan falls in love with a young women of the tribe. After she dies in childbirth, Jondalar and Thonolan leave the people - Jondalar hoping to return home and Thonolan, sick with grief, hoping to die.
Ayla and Jondalar's lives cross paths when she saves him, from a lion attack - the same young cub that she raised. Thonolan's wounds prove to be fatal, but Ayla brings Jondalar back to her cave and begins to nurse him back to health. This is a wonderful love story of people from two very different backgrounds. When they finally meet, Jondalar and Ayla struggle to find similar means of communication and deal with constant misunderstands due to their cultural differences.
In their interaction, the author stress the extreme differences between the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon people. Through Jondalar and Thonolan's journey, the reader was introduced to many different groups of people. They all had different customs and it was really interesting to see how early humans might have dealt with issues such as survival skills, family structure, sex, and religion. I was expecting Ayla's story to be a bit boring (after all, she was alone with only animals to keep her company for almost three years!), but the author kept my attention with her great since of details, explanation of thought patterns, and human-animal interactions. I inevitability knew that Jondalar and Ayla were going to get together, but I found myself so excited when they began to understand one another other. The story ends with the young couple meeting a group of mammoth hunters.