“Ms. Auel's long awaited fifth novel in the Earth's Children series, does not disappoint. As griping as its predecessors, THE SHELTER OF STONE is a page turner that the reader will be reluctant to put down until its intriguing conclusion. As always it leaves one wanting more, with questions that beg to be answered.
After a five year absence Jondalar returns to the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, the place of his birth, home. He is relieved to be back, but anxious as well. He'd been sent away once, long ago when he'd fallen in love with a woman he could not have. He'd wished to mate with his donii woman, which was strictly forbidden. She had nearly agreed.
When his plans were exposed, Jondalar, always a man of strong passions, had beaten the informant. With two serious transgressions to his credit, he had been sent away to the Lanzadonii, to live with Dalanar, the man of his hearth, his mother's former mate, in order to learn discipline. He'd learned a skill as well during that period, becoming perhaps the best flint knapper in the Ninth Cave, when he'd been welcomed back. He never wished to face that kind of rejection again. This was where he belonged.
Tall, and exceptionally handsome, Jondalar had been a favorite among the unmated women of his cave. Yet he had never fallen in love again, until Ayla. He'd been expected to mate the summer he'd left on this journey. He had dutifully chosen a woman whose beauty was a match for his own. But her heart was colder than the stone that protected their cave from the elements. Though he'd convinced himself he'd embarked on their journey to protect his younger brother Thonolan, subconsciously he'd known he could not go through with that mating. It had been Thonolan who had itched to travel, and Thonolan whose life had been lost along the way.
Jondalar had been gravely wounded as well. It had been Ayla who had saved his life. Ayla, who had been raised by the Clan, who had been living all alone in the valley when the men had been attacked by a cave lion. Ayla who repaired his wounds and nursed him back to health. Ayla, the woman who tamed wild animals. Ayla, the women he loved more than his own life. He'd left home at seventeen to avoid one mating, and had returned a mature man of two and twenty, hoping for his people's blessing on the his mating to this woman. He'd been faint of heart once, and had nearly lost her to another man. She had not given up on him, and he had vowed to that they would become mates regardless of the Zelandonii's response. In their hearts they already were, but he hoped his people would accept her. He wanted to live among his own. The acceptance of Dalanar's people along the way, had given him hope.
They had so much to share with his people, as their dramatic entrance upon horseback illustrated. Though cautious, the people of the Ninth Cave are intrigued by the pair. His own family, his brother Joharran, Leader of the Ninth Cave, his mother Marthona, former Leader, his mother's mate Willamar, Trade Master, and Zelandoni, the spiritual leader of the Ninth Cave, and First Among Those Who Serve The Mother (Jondalar's first love), are insightful people, who realize how much the pair can contribute to their society. They are welcomed home with open arms by the family and others as well, although not all are pleased by their arrival. The woman who Jondalar jilted is particularly unkind, but Ayla in characteristic fashion rises above it.
The Zelandonii are preparing for their Summer Meeting in which all of the caves gather, to hunt for their winter provisions, and to conduct special ceremonies, First Rites for girls who have become women, and Matrimonials for those who have chosen to mate. The pair enjoy the opportunity to share their innovations with the others as they anticipate their mating ceremony. The tame horses and wolf are intriguing, as are the spear throwers that Jondalar had invented. Ayla's affinity for wild animals, her healing skills, and her treatment of those with differences or in need, impress Zelandoni greatly. It is a time of learning, as well as sharing, for the ever adaptable Ayla, as she learns to belong to yet another complex and sophisticated culture.
Her healing skills alone would have convinced Zelandoni that Ayla belongs among Those Who Serve The Mother, but her revelations about the Clan, her experiences with the Mamutoi, and her notions about men's role in the creation of life, make her certain that Ayla must join the zelandonia for her own sake and for the peace of the Zelandonii.
Ayla, who has already had two disturbing experiences with the spirit world, only wishes to be a mate to Jondalar, and be a mother to the child she's expecting. Jondalar also wonders if he is capable of sharing her with such an awesome responsibility. However he has grown more than even he realizes. Deep down is a certainty that he will love this woman, no matter what comes. Ayla has proven to be a woman of resources time and again. She is first and foremost a survivor, a woman of great strength. Her vulnerability lies in her concern for the well being for those she loves, whether it be her animals, her mate, her child, or her friends. Can she do it all? An interesting question which women are still facing today. We will have to wait for the next installment to find out. Here's hoping it won't be so long in coming.
Find out more about the masterful storyteller, the series, and this novel in Ms. Auel's video interviews at Random House.
Reviewed for PNR Reviews”