Part of my Unschooled Master of Theology Program is extensive reading in various, often interrelated subjects, and that includes fiction.
As a teenager, I had a rabid fascination with all things horror, especially Dean Koontz. But, as I became an adult and left home, I rarely found a book that held my interest for very long, let alone one that really captivated me like the novels of my youth, such as Lightning, or Lord of the Flies. But, despite this, I’ve made a concerted effort to include a robust list of fiction in my uThM program, both for general reading interests and also for craft exposure.
Over the last year or so I’ve been working through The Earth’s Children Series by Jean Auel. For the longest time I’ve wanted to read Clan of the Cavebear, and to my surprise, I discovered it was a series of six books, and this week I finished the fourth book in the series, The Plains of Passage.
So, let’s jump in and see what Ayla and Jondalar are up to…
On A Journey Home
There are few fiction books that captivate me enough that I would finish them to the end, let alone a story that is so engaging that I would finish the entire multi-book series. Earth’s Children is one of those stories.
It’s truly refreshing.
The fourth installment of the book finds Ayla and Jondalar on their way back to Zelandonii, Jondalar’s home. It is a long trek, scheduled to take a year or more.
I can’t imagine the fortitude required to walk on foot across the land like that. No food, no water, hunting and gathering along the way. Enduring the elements, living in a portable tent (and not our modern kind of tents either), living off the land.
It is an entirely different kind of life, and these two had the help of domesticated horses and even a pet, either bringing strange looks and reactions from the people they visited along their journey.
But, it was a return home that prodded them on. Prodded Jondalar on, and Ayla just wanted to be wherever he was. She had no family, no kin, no history to speak of. She had no memory of her actual family, and only bad memories of the Clan that raised her. A different race of people. It’s such an oddity to think there could have been other types of beings on the planet that interacted with humans like us.
How much of this is accurate and how much is speculation is, of course, open to interpretation. But it’s fascinating to theorize and speculate.
WAY TOO MUCH PORN
I have a few gripes about this book in particular and the series as a whole. Knock it off with the ridiculous amount of porn already! The author is consistent, and not really at that imaginative. One minute the couple is walking in the open plains of prehistoric Europe and the next, they’re clothes are off and you can hear the porn music in the background and everything! It’s ridiculous.
Less is often more. You don’t need to spell out every minute details. Just allude. We get it. Ancient people had sex similarly to how modern people do it. Though, I think this is wild speculation on the author’s part. There is no way a dip in the creek every once in awhile is the same as daily showers with soap.
Then again, I did experience being in the field for several weeks at a time when I was in the military, and after a week or so of everyone not showering you can’t really tell the difference. But, I wasn’t sleeping with anyone either.
I got to the point where I had to start fast forwarding through the porn and get on to the next scene. It works pretty well, though I’m amazed at how much time she spends with the subject.
Jondalar’s Really Annoying
One thing I did notice (and maybe I’m highly sensitive to it since I’m single and can do whatever I want whenever I want), Jondalar has really become an annoying prick in this book. He has no patience for Ayla wanting to help people and even less patience for Wolf, her pet…well…pet wolf. I found myself several times while reading making a mental note of Jondalar’s poor attitude. He really should be lucky and grateful to have found someone that will put up with his drama.
It’s been about ten years, maybe more, now since my divorce. Since that time, I’ve leaned into my choice of celibacy. I could have, instead, like most everyone else I’ve known in the past who’s marriages imploded, looked around until I found a second woman to marry. I’ve had co-workers make advances. I could put a posting on the dating sites and see what comes my way.
But, I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m not deluded by positivity. I don’t trust people. People are not trust worthy, fundamentally.
I know I could find someone else to journey along with me, to share in the burden that is life, but why? I’ve learned the lessons from my previous marriage. I know why it failed.
It’s interesting that Ayla for so long, in the previous books, when she was alone in her cave, sought, begged, longed for companionship of other people. For a long time I thought that was the wrong desire. But, lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the wrong desire for me.
Better, yet. It is the wrong decision for me, specifically, because I do not have the desire. I don’t have the right desire. For the few reasons I would entertain a second marriage, there are a multitude of reasons why I should not. And, Christ was clear, “For those who can accept it, let them accept it.”
Jondalar’s behavior and sour disposition is a common human trait. It is the consequence of cohabitation. I see it in my co-workers, my family members, on television, in books. Society is full of people who try to make a go of living with other people, and it rarely if ever seems to work for any real length of time.
An interesting part of the story was the account of the people led by a crazy woman who had been abused by her husband and other men, so when she took power she imprisoned all the men of the camp and taught all the women to hunt and fight.
The story is kind of lost, other than providing the padding most likely needed by the publisher. There was no real reason to add this section, though it does touch on some interesting ideas.
Are there distinct roles for women and men? Should they not cross? What constitutes abuse? Ayla growing up was not allowed to hunt. It was simply not a role in which women of the clan participated in. But, Ayla took to it and perfected it.
So she was capable of it. But, according to the rules of the Clan, she was not allowed to do it, that is, until she did it and it was discovered. Then an exception was made.
In this new camp, the women all took their places in hunting parties and took on the male roles while imprisoning the men of the camp and maiming them so they could not fight back.
The leader’s death ended the reign and Ayla and Jondalar quickly left them to themselves and started back again on the trail.
My Favorite Quote of the Book
Sometimes in fiction books I come across a quote that is so memorable, so touching, so poignant, I want to make a point to highlight it for others. It’s few and far between, since fiction is most often not as exacting as non-fiction is. The stories are what stand out, not the direct quotes from the characters. But, occassionally.
Here is the quote:
“You’ve known many people, learned other customs, other ways, even other languages. Your own people may not know you any more, you are not even the same person you were when you left here, and they will not be quite the people you remember. You will think of each other as you were, not as you are now.”
I’ve experienced this first hand on a few occasions in my life. Shortly after my divorce, I was visited one day by an old classmate from high school. I was extremely uncomfortable and not really interested in chatting about old times. But, that was not the real issue. The problem was, I did not remember this person. I thought I recognized his name. Thought maybe it was the person I remembered from school, someone I had protected from a bully. But, other than that, the person in front of me was a complete and utter stranger.
To him, though, we had a profound and serious connection. Apparently, we had been fast friends in school, had palled around together often, had gone on several adventures, and I had truly affected his life in a profound way.
The problem was, he was remembering the person I used to be. Before him, he saw that other person. The person from my past. I was no longer remotely like that person. I didn’t even look like him.
He reluctantly left disappointed that I really had no memory of our friendship.
The second time this happened was the day I received a phone call from my best friend while in the military. We had lived in the same barracks for two years while overseas, and we’d gone through deep and soulful spiritual awakenings together. Or, at least, so I had assumed.
The reality was, I had gone through a deep spiritual awakening during the time we were neighbors. I would often seek his advice, often share ideas with him. We spent vacations together camping in the Alps, riding trains across Europe, visiting castles, etc.
His spiritual awakening, though, did not happen until I was long gone. After I left the military and returned to the states, he remained behind, and another soldier moved in, and my friend then had a profound turn toward God.
During our phone conversation, I was told my friend would be coming into town. I took time off of work, and drove the three hours to where my friend was staying, and camped out with him for two days.
By now, my friend was an independent fundamental baptist, had married his wife who he’d met in college, and I quickly discovered not only was he a completely different person now, but so was I.
Since our time shared several years before, I had continued on my religious course, but unlike him, I drifted away from fundamentalism, but mostly from protestantism, whereas he had drawn closer to it. Subsequently, there was no longer shared ground between us. I remembered him where he had once been, and he remembered me where I had once been. But, the two of us were now fundamentally different people.
We have not spoken since that weekend. He is still married and has two children and works as an instructor for an aviation school back east. His life, his personality, is utterly and completely foreign to mine in nearly every way.
Yet, there is a memory of him at a certain place and a certain time that I will never forget. During that time, at that moment, he was truly my friend.
It is true, at the very core of our ever transforming natures, we are never stationary, never static in either our physical forms or our personalities. In light of this fact, it’s interesting that a personal identity is able to persist at all.
I know myself as the same person, same identity as the person who lived in Europe next door to my best friend. I know him and his name and will always think of him as my best friend at that time, while we were both there, living those lives. Yet, today, neither of us are remotely like those people we once were. We are nearly unrecognizable from those people of the past.
If so, how then do we equate that I am one and the same with the past version of me? How is my friend the same person that is the stranger today living on the East coast?
Is our identity somehow inherently connected to our experiences over time? I’ve always asserted, if I were able to go back in time and warn myself of an impending catastrophe (failed marriage, poor educational choices, warn my 17 year old self not to fall victim to the lies of the US government and enlist in the Army), then upon taking a different road, making a different choice, I would thus become a completely and distinct individual. I would cease to be me, the person who I am currently in this original present and would become an alternative me.
If so, then our personal identity is not only connected to our experiences, our choices and decisions, but those choices, decisions, and experiences make up who we are.
There was a time in high school when I was not a believer in the Christian gospel. In fact, I was a self-described Buddhist, with a desire to erase the pain and suffering in the world (my pain and suffering) through meditation and disconnection from desires.
At a moment in my senior year, all that I believed, all that I thought was the world around me, changed. I was exposed to a bible passage, and at that moment, experienced an encounter like no other. Unexplainable. Unpredictable. I had not wanted to become something other than I was at that time. In fact, I was a very happy and content Buddhist. I was seriously considering entering the monastery instead of enlisting in the US military.
But, that metaphysical experience shattered my worldview, and propelled me along a different course. If I had remained a Buddhist, I would be a completely different person today.
Yet, why is it the person I was before my conversion is the same person after my conversion? I have completely different beliefs than that older me. I have a completely different outlook and perspective. And, yet, I remain the same identity.
Disjointed As Ever
I’m surprised this series has a publisher. The writing is, as it has been for all the books thus far, very disjointed and hard to read. It’s written well enough to get through and for the story to actually come through, but there is a lot of unnecessary detail and how-to, descriptive vomiting going on these pages and I’m not sure why.
They say spelling errors distract from the story, but so can bad writing and this author is certainly not gifted. If not for the captivating characters (the story is really just about them wandering around in prehistoric time) this series would be unreadable.
The Fateful Return
By the end of the book, they return to Zelandonii and come upon one of the first caves of Jondalar’s people, relatives of a sort. They are welcomed, of course, and even with the horses and the domesticated wolf in toe. They discover the walls of hostility are falling between the Others and those of the Clan, and Ayla’s fears might be unfounded.
We also discover Ayla is pregnant. But, I’m not certain why, since she was taking pre-modern birth control throughout the entire book because she didn’t want to get pregnant. I guess birth control, even in pre-historic times, isn’t 100% effective.
Questions still remain, and spur me on to read the last two books in the series. Thankfully I have both on audio book and intend to do so on my work days. It is a rarity that I have a job where I can also listen to headphones while I’m working. I’m able to listen to tv shows, audiobooks, lectures, etc. It’s been a blessing the last several months since getting bluetooth headphones.
But, to those questions….
What will be Ayla’s fate in the end? Will she be accepted by Jondalar’s family? Will she ever reunite with her son of the Clan again? Will she ever see her adopted family from the other side of the glacier?
I’ll be glad when I’m finally finished with all six books, but the journey is the true reward, right? I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story turns out.
Until my next review….
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from Our Daughter:
“Okay, mom,” Randy said.
“You behave yourself and be nice. You’re lucky to have company while you wait for the doctors.”
The woman turned and started back the way she came.
“The nurse said it would be twenty or thirty more minutes, so we’ll eat quick and be back up here before they take you in, okay?”
“Sorry for him,” the woman said to Katie as she walked by.
As the woman left, Katie noticed the boy moving around again on the bed. Before she realized what was happening, the tiny lump disappeared and she could hear the faint sound of bare hands and feet on the tile floor.
He was low crawling under the beds toward her.
A moment later, Randy popped his head out from under the nearest hospital bed, craning his neck around to look up at her.
“Hello, there,” Katie said.
Randy disappeared back under the bed, the bed sheet draping down almost to the floor. Katie could still see three little fingers pressed to the tile.
“What are you here for?” Katie asked, readjusting her seat in the chair, trying to get the ache in her chest to lessen.
For whatever reason, the wheelchair was really uncomfortable.
“Why are – ”
Randy’s voice trailed off for a moment as he looked around.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m getting my leg fixed,” Katie said. “See?”
Randy poked his head back out from under the bed and looked at the leg she was pointing to.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“The doctor said it’s broken,” Katie said. “Shattered.”
“Can you feel it?” Randy asked, able to stay out from his hiding place.
“I can feel it, but it’s not too bad,” Katie said, then tapped the IV in her arm. “This thing is giving me medicine of some kind for the pain. At least that’s what the nurses said.”
“Why are you – ”
Randy stopped mid-sentence.
He scooted out from under the bed entirely and slowly crept over to her on all fours.
“What are you, some kind of spider?” Katie asked, giggling a little.
“What are you?” Randy echoed.
He was now only about a foot away from her chair and sat there, his legs folded up under him, gawking up at her.
“What are you staring at me for?”
“I’ve never – ”
Randy put out a hesitant hand and ever so gently touched her arm.
“Are you some kind of ghost?”
He looked around again.
“Are you – ”
He leaned in, talking in a whisper.
“Are you dead?”
A nurse came around the corner and stopped abruptly, spotting the empty bed in the far corner where Randy should have been.
“Randy Andrews,” the nurse said, her hands now on her hips. “You get right back into the bed and you stop playing around, please. They are ready for you in surgery.”
Katie watched as Randy scrambled on all fours under the beds and back up onto his, pulling the sheet back over top of himself again.
She started to ask him about his question, but couldn’t get the words out before his parents appeared at the door.
Katie sat there quietly, watching Randy stare back at her from under his sheet. She glanced over at his parents and the nurse, noticed Randy’s dad had no hair on the top of his head.
Are you dead?
What kind of question was that?
The snap of the wheel locks being disengaged on Randy’s hospital bed jarred Katie out of the confusion she was in.
The doctor she’d first seen was now at the door, waiting for Randy.
He was his surgeon.
They wheeled Randy out of the room, his parents following right behind, disappearing to the left, heading for his operating room.
The pre-op room was empty again.
Are you dead?
What kind of crazy question was that?
The nurse came back through the double doors.
“It won’t be long now,” she said.
Katie tried not to think about the dull ache growing just behind her sternum.
The nurse disappeared around the corner as Katie watched the double doors to the operating rooms slowly shut.
Buy my book Our Daughter and begin the adventure of a lifetime, as you uncover the mysteries behind Katie Cadora’s new life after the horrible accident that stole her mother away from her. Will she find sure footing again? Will the pain ever stop? Will she discover the secrets her new foster family are keeping from her? Is the boy’s question right? Is Katie Cadora actually dead?
Click here and grab your copy today and jump into this Witch Gnostic Heresy trilogy with both feet!
But, trust me when I tell you, there are deceivers in our midsts! Get started in this bone chilling suspense novel right away and find out why….sometimes….you’re just better off DEAD!