People of the Bear Mother

Written by T. D. Austin
Review by John H. Manhold

Author Austin, impressed by Jean Clottes’ book on the Pont’ d’Arc cave-painting discoveries of Jean Marie Chauvet in 1994, sets out to imagine the story behind those fantastic images. After a prologue discussing the main character’s reincarnation, the next several chapters are devoted to the initiation of Little Bear as shaman of a clan of hunters living some 30,000 years ago. The author conjures up an utterly fascinating (albeit lengthy) story surrounding the cave’s natural structures and riveting paintings. Subsequent chapters tell the story of Little Bear’s life as a shaman, wife, and mother as the clan moves through its yearly cycle of summer hunts and sedentary winters. Portions of the book border on the erotic. The final chapter and epilogue provide an unusual ending and some intriguing speculations on life. The novel is multifaceted and enjoyable, although it can feel over-long.