Neanderthals: had fair skin and some had red hair and blue eyes could speak as well as we can, were intellectually bright, catching dolphins (something that cannot be done from shore), killing megafauna for food with spears, surviving cold temperatures and hostile environments that would challenge our best outdoors men and women, creating art, burying their dead with red ocher, and/or flowers, caring for their disabled. Ki’ti’s Story, 75,000 BC, provides an opportunity to explore a unique view of Neanderthal life based on recent science. It’s a coming of age story in the succession of the People’s Wise One. More than that it is the story of a People who survived for hundreds of thousands of geologic years. Come walk with Neanderthals and explore a different time and place. Meet Wamumur, the Wise One, who recaptures love and learns a little too late that he pushes too hard as a teacher, as did his father before him; Totamu, the administrative head of the People, whose officious behaviors are accepted often with irritation but with the realization that she works for the good of the People; Ki’ti, the child whose childhood is cut short because she has been gifted with memory of the stories of the People, who is wise beyond her years in some respects and ignorant and willful in others; Nanichak-na, the individual recognized for hunter leadership who would be chief it they had one.
I Loved This Book
Bonnye Matthews has done something incredible in this book. She invents a culture that is believable despite being fantastic, stunningly severe even while it is incredibly compassionate. Pre-modern human groups, one of which includes the protagonist, Ki’ti, are living in a semi-nomadic subsistence lifestyle in Asia, when a volcanic eruption forces some of them to move. Differences among groups in spiritual and moral ethics are seamlessly imagined against a backdrop where men are hunting for large mammals with hand weapons and people are living mostly in caves. But the star, the focal brilliance, of this story is not the danger of the hunt or the drama of the volcano, it is the growth of Ki’ti from a young child to the wise woman responsible for maintaining the oral traditions of her people, and the tremendous burdens and joys that it brings her along the way. Though it is the start of a longer story, this book is nevertheless a wonderful read on its own. It has a lyrical pace that is difficult to capture in words, with steady, fluid movement, often surprising, toward a future that we all are living, but by a path that is not at all clear but is delightfully uncovered one step at a time. I feel no reservations in highly recommending this book.
Troy Hamon, Author, 14 Days to Alaska