I'm ashamed to admit I started reading this book as a joke.
It hadn't been too long since I was complaining about the scientific inaccuracies in another book, so I thought this would be more of the same, with the added lurid element of romance with a caveman.
I really, really take it badly when a book shows evidence of lack of research, especially scientific research, because I know people read it and form wrong ideas about the subjects approached.
But Shay Savage did the right thing: right before the book started she explained a bit about Broca's area (though, for some reason, not Wernicke's area) and made a point to say something along the lines, hey this isn't right in my book, but I'm claiming artistic licence.
An author needs only make this clear and I'm open to read anything, to be honest.
And I'm so glad that, pretentious though my initial approach to this book may have been, I decided to read it anyway. Because this book is AMAZING.
Shay Savage insists that we're not to take the story too seriously and then proceeds to write an extraordinary book.
Ehd is a caveman. No details of his exact subspecies and, to be honest, since this is sci-fi, no details are needed. It's irrelevant because this book is so well written, the story is so riveting that it manages to have just about 2 lines of dialogue in over 300 pages and you don't even care.
But back to the plot - Ehd is a caveman. He lost his entire tribe in a forest fire and he's been finding it hard to find the will to go on living now that he's alone.
Until he finds Elizabeth in the pit he'd dug.
Elizabeth is, quite obviously to us readers but not something that could even cross Ehd's mind, a time-traveller. A young woman who's terrified to find herself suddenly in the middle of the woods, and even more terrified when she comes face to face with a caveman determined to have her for a mate.
I know many of you are rolling your eyes at this, "Oh, the old mate thing from Paranormal Romances, no thanks." Hold on. It could not be farther from that. Ehd sees her as a mate because there is no one else, she's a woman, he's a man, and that's basically all he knows of life: survive, find a mate, protect her and your children, provide for them. We may scoff, but survival is no joke if we're dropped in the wilderness with all the equipment needed to make it - let alone in the Stone Age with nothing but our wits.
No matter how hard Elizabeth tries to communicate with Ehd, he is devoid of the ability to understand language. He manages to learn her "name-sound" Beh, and that's it.
I think it was brilliant to have the book narrated from Ehd's point of view. We get to see his frustration at Beh's incessant sounds, we get to see his confusion over the fact that Beh is not in the slightest interested in him giving her a baby, we get to see his bafflement at Beh's insistence to never let him see her naked.
And we get to see his patience. His relief at no longer being alone.
It reminded me of the loneliest man in the world - in case you don't know the story, deforestation means that greedy lumber companies think nothing of slaughtering tribes of native Amazonians. In one such case only a single man survived the slaughtering of his tribe (which seems to have been one without any contact with the modern world). Now he lives alone in the Amazonian jungle, going through the motions of the day-to-day life of his people. Alone. He shows no interest in having any sort of contact with anyone and, really, can we blame him?
So with this story in mind, I really felt for Ehd. It must be terrible to be the last of your people. To go on day after day. Alone.
And his happiness at having Beh with him is palpable. Perhaps she's weird, her furs are strange, she's very insistent on bathing, and she keeps making noises with her mouth. But she's his Beh and now he has purpose in his life: to protect her, to provide for her and maybe, someday, she'll agree to see him as worthy of being her mate and they can have children of their own - a new tribe.
And it's... touching to see their relationship grow, even though they want different things, even though they literally do not understand each other. It's slow and it feels real, and it was lovely.
It also is quite accurate depicting their struggles for survival. Every day there was gathering, hunting, keeping the fire from going out. there was fighting off predators, and work, work, work, from dawn to dusk.
And I have to admit it, it made me cry, I can't say what exactly because I don't want to spoil this for anyone, but there were at least two times I was left in tears.
I don't even know how to recommend this book - but please see past the silly-sounding blurb, past the cover, and past the mocking reviews. And please, please, give this book a chance!!
I'm one of the pickiest reviewers in the world and the ebook wasn't enough for me, I need to go buy the paperback.
So go read it!
Shay Savage's official site
@ The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery!)