Light years separate Thomas's intelligent, literate fiction from most other novels set in prehistoric times. Exuding authenticity and distinguished by resonant language, this novel, a companion to Reindeer Moon , is likewise set in the savannastet of the Siberian Paleolithic. The narrator, Kori, and his hunter-gatherer people are portrayed as heroic but also fallible, sometimes prey to bad judgment and overwhelming passions. Kori is beset by guilt when he realizes that his shaman father's new wife is pregnant with Kori's child, conceived in secret before his father chose to marry her. Later, seized with lust at the sight of a woman swimming in a pond, he impulsively captures her, putting his group in peril of her people's revenge. The woman, whom he names Muskrat, comes from a tribe whose customs, worship, sexual practices and hunting techniques are different from Kori's. These alien beliefs and mutually incomprehensible languages are as crippling to their relationship as a deep ethnic division is in any time; intolerance and distrust breed bitterness and tragedy. Thomas has a magical feel for the patterns of the natural world integral to the hunter-gather culture. While this novel does not have the heart-tugging poignance of the previous story, it is psychologically acute and soaringly imaginative.
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The Animal Wife , which is set in Siberia 20,000 years ago, is a companion novel to Thomas's earlier Reindeer Moon (LJ 1/87). It depicts the life of the hunter-gatherer tribes of those plains through the story of Kori, a young male of the tribe. While out hunting, Kori captures a woman from another tribe whom he names Muskrat. Their evolving relationship and the interactions among the family tribe members as they move from their summer grounds to their winter grounds in the constant search for food form the heart of the novel. Thomas is an anthropologist who has used her experiences with the Kalahari bushmen as background. However, this works best as a work of fiction and not an anthropological study; there is much interest and humor in the male-female conflicts. This will be heavily promoted and, while not as steamy, is likely to appeal to Clan of the Cave Bear fans. --Janet Boyarin Blundell, Brookdale Community Coll., Lincroft, N.J.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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