Driven from their ancestral home, Xhosa’s people have been wanderers for far too long. But now, coming down from the Pyrenees mountains into what will become the Spanish plains, her people are filled with hope. Finally, they have found a homeland. But Xhosa and her people are in sorry shape. Always learning how to cope in a new land—and surviving outright attacks by vicious brigands—have left them gaunt and haggard, with wounds that have yet to heal. To top it all off, Xhosa is plagued by migraine headaches and is having difficulty finding medication.
This is a tale that would be poignant no matter when it occurred. But these people lived 850,000 years ago. At the risk of paraphrasing the intro to “Gilligan’s Island,” that means no stores where you can nip in to pick up a carton of milk. No Home Depots, with roof shingles that are guaranteed not to leak and 2 x 4s that are quite often straight. And if you wanted to get anywhere, you had feet. Nobody had cars or even horses.
It was a completely different, savage world, one that you and I would have difficulty surviving in. But our ancestors did. They dug deep and found the will to survive, sometimes against all odds.
Like with Ms. Murray’s other books, this one is meticulously researched, lending a verisimilitude that is detailed and believable. Sights, sounds, smells—they’re all here. Pain, both from straightforward physical causes and from fear of being pursued by enemies, fills their thoughts. Characters react and grow, sometimes with wise choices, other times not, but always believably. Even the wolves are convincing. All in all, Ms. Murray has achieved the enviable result of creating a timeless story set in an environment that is both familiar and strange.
All lovers of prehistoric fiction should consider picking up copies of Ms. Murray’s books. And even if you haven’t been enthralled with the genre before, if you ever enjoyed Ishi or The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Ms. Murray’s Crossroads trilogy might tickle your story bone. Go on, give it a whirl, although I’d start with the first book in the series, Survival of the Fittest.
Happy reading! : )