An earthquake during the Ice Age separates a little girl, Ayla, from her family. This same earthquake destroys the home of The Clan of the Cave Bear. While the clan is looking for a new home they find the little girl, who is hurt and dying. They decide to adopt Ayla even if she is one of the “others” and different from themselves. This is Ayla’s story as she grows up within her new family.
Clan of the Cave Bear is the first of six books in the Earth Children’s series. This is a fictional story that takes place at the dawn of time, over 30,000 years ago and examines the life of The Clan. They are Neanderthals at the twilight of their existence. The series also explores life with Cro-Magnons, the first early modern humans. Ms. Auel has done extensive research on this time period and her books have a wonderful historical quality. The story is told by a third-person omniscient narrator centering primarily on the main protagonist, Ayla, a young Cro-Magnon woman who is adopted and raised by The Clan.
I first read this book many years ago and I enjoyed it as much today as I did then. The pre-historic setting is well drawn. The characters are all thoroughly developed and the reader really gets to know what life was like living in the clan. The theme is one of community, family, love and belonging. Ayla must repress who she really is in order to exist within the confines of their society. Without the safety and security of the clan she would surely die, besides this, she also deeply loves these people who have become her family. The ending is sad but satisfying.
This is a standalone story, ending at a turning point in Ayla’s life. It also ends with a beginning, Ayla’s story will continue on in a completely different direction in The Valley of the Horses, the next book in the series. I highly recommend this book it is excellent, well told and very interesting.