STARRED REVIEW
May 2017

Two women, eons apart

By Claire Cameron

In The Last Neanderthal, Claire Cameron expertly intertwines Girl’s and Rose’s stories. Though they are separated by 40,000 years and exist in almost wholly separate worlds, the women are bonded. They face their bodies’ sexual maturation and capability to create life. They’re challenged by the expectations and limitations of being a woman in their respective times. In turn, Cameron challenges the reader to consider his or her own existence. This is an engaging tale that celebrates the search for life’s meaning and its quotidian nature.

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Neanderthal kills bison. Neanderthal eats bison. Bear eats bison carcass. Birds clean carcass. Worms spread carcass remains. Rain washes remains into river. Algae grows, fed by decomposing bison. River fish eats algae. All life is connected.

Girl knows this cycle well. One of the last Neanderthals, Girl understands that every step of a hunt affects not only her family but also the animals that surround them. They, too, are animals, and they have respect for their role in the cycle.

In the present day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale believes Neanderthals recognized their interconnectivity, but the scientific world isn’t buying into her ideas. It’s a thrilling moment, then, when Rose uncovers Neanderthal and human skeletons lying side by side. They’re positioned as though the two died staring into one another’s eyes.

Modern humans cling to the idea that Neanderthals were a lesser species, and that’s why Homo sapiens prevailed. Rose is convinced her discovery not only places the two in the same time period, but also suggests Neanderthals even interacted with humans.

In The Last Neanderthal, Claire Cameron expertly intertwines Girl’s and Rose’s stories. Though they are separated by 40,000 years and exist in almost wholly separate worlds, the women are bonded. They face their bodies’ sexual maturation and capability to create life. They’re challenged by the expectations and limitations of being a woman in their respective times. In turn, Cameron challenges the reader to consider his or her own existence. This is an engaging tale that celebrates the search for life’s meaning and its quotidian nature.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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The Last Neanderthal

The Last Neanderthal

By Claire Cameron
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316314480

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