Jean Auel''s fifth novel about Ayla, the Cro-Magnon cavewoman raised by Neanderthals, is the biggest comeback bestseller in Amazon.com history. In The Shelters of Stone, Ayla meets the Zelandonii tribe of Jondalar, the Cro-Magnon hunk she rescued from Baby, her pet lion. Ayla is pregnant. How will Jondalar''s mom react? Or his bitchy jilted fiancée? Ayla wows her future in-laws by striking fire from flint and taming a wild wolf. But most regard her Neanderthal adoptive Clan as subhuman "flatheads." Clan larynxes can''t quite manage language, and Ayla must convince the Zelandonii that Clan sign language isn''t just arm-flapping. Zelandonii and Clan are skirmishing, and those who interbreed are deemed "abominations." What would Jondalar''s tribe think if they knew Ayla had to abandon her half-breed son in Clan country? The plot is slow to unfold, because Auel''s first goal is to pack the tale with period Pleistocene detail, provocative speculation, and bits of romance, sex, tribal politics, soap opera, and homicidal wooly rhino-hunting adventure. It''s an enveloping fact-based fantasy, a genre-crossing time trip to the Ice Age. --Tim Appelo
The Shelters of Stone opens as Ayla and Jondalar, along with their animal friends, Wolf, Whinney, and Racer, complete their epic journey across Europe and are greeted by Jondalar’s people: the Zelandonii. The people of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii fascinate Ayla. Their clothes, customs, artifacts, even their homes—formed in great cliffs of vertical limestone—are a source of wonder to her. And in the woman Zelandoni, the spiritual leader of the Ninth Cave (and the one who initiated Jondalar into the Gift of Pleasure), she meets a fellow healer with whom to share her knowledge and skills.
But as Ayla and Jondalar prepare for the formal mating at the Summer Meeting, there are difficulties. Not all the Zelandonii are welcoming. Some fear Ayla’s unfamiliar ways and abhor her relationship with those they call flatheads and she calls Clan. Some even oppose her mating with Jondalar, and make their displeasure known. Ayla has to call on all her skills, intelligence, knowledge, and instincts to find her way in this complicated society, to prepare for the birth of her child, and to decide whether she will accept new challenges and play a significant role in the destiny of the Zelandonii.
Jean Auel is at her very best in this superbly textured creation of a prehistoric society. The Shelters of Stone is a sweeping story of love and danger, with all the wonderful detail—based on meticulous research— that makes her novels unique. It is a triumphant continuation of the Earth’s Children® saga that began with The Clan of the Cave Bear. And it includes an amazing rhythmic poem that describes the birth of Earth’s Children and plays its own role in the narrative of The Shelters of Stone.
From the Hardcover edition.
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