Ayla Meets the In-Laws

SheltersThe Shelters of Stone

Jean M. Auel

Book 5 in Earth’s Children Series.

Crown Publishers   2002.  753 whopping pages including list of characters, maps, and the unforgettable “Mother’s Song.”

I bought this book for .50 cents at the Library’s used book sale.

Faithful Livritome followers may possibly remember my great affection for prehistoric adventure-gal Ayla from my blog post about her travels across late Pleistocene Europe with her hunky boyfriend, Jondalar.

In this tome we continue the story of Ayla and Jondalar as they return to Jondalar’s home people, the Zelandonii.  The goal is to settle down, marry and raise a family among Jondalar’s people.  This might seem as no big deal, but you may remember that Ayla is not your typical girl from the next cave over.  Ayla knows how to tame wild animals and she is bringing two tame horses and a tame wolf along with her.  Also, Ayla was raised as an orphan child by the despised Flatheads, which is how Jondalar’s peeps label Neanderthals — and she’s actually proud of this upbringing and the skills and understanding she gained from it.  You know there is going to be conflict and heartache but in the end, beautiful and good Ayla will win the day and the hearts of her new family.

And that’s it.  That is pretty much the story for over 700 boring, repetitive pages.  The basic “plot” of this book goes like this:

1.  Ayla meets some new Zelandonii folks.

2.  They express wonder and awe at the (a) tame animals or (b) worry and concern because Ayla was raised by Flatheads.

3.  Ayla “introduces” them to the animals by (a.) holding their hands out to the tame wolf or (b) having them stroke and pet the horse; or (c) preaches love and understanding about Flatheads.

4.  The new folks accept Ayla unless they are drunks, jealous bitches or other low caste folks who just don’t get it.

5.  Ayla and Jondalar have sex.

6.  Ayla meets some new Zelandonii folks.

7.  They express wonder and awe at the (a) tame animals or (b) worry and concern because Ayla was raised by Flatheads.

8.  Aylat “introduces” them to….

And on and on and on and on and on…..

If you have never read any of the other books, no worries.  Auel actually repeats almost every major incident from her four previous books throughout this one.  For example, I was almost screaming with frustration by the time when Ayla was actually reminiscing about every other sleeping arrangement she ever had in the earlier stories as follows: 

In their sleeping rolls in the family tent that night, with everyone much closer together, Ayla was reminded of the sleeping arrangements within the Mamutoi earthlodge and found herself thinking about them.  When she first saw it, she had been amazed at the semi-subterreanean longhouse the Lion Camp had constructed.  They used mammoth bones to support the thick walls…

She recalled the family of the Clan had had separate hearths, too, but there were no walls, only a few stones to indicate boundaries.  The people of the Clan also learned to avoid looking into other family’s living rooms….

And this shizzle is from three books ago!!!  Why why why — it does nothing to advance the plot of the current book.  Much of the 700+ pages of this hunk of pulp goes on exactly like this.  At one point I was longing for the pet wolf to bite some Flathead-hater right in the ass.

I honestly can say it is probably impossible to read this book.  The only way I got through it was to put myself in my text book reading mode (which as I should be doing my homework or at least reading Guardian novels is appropriate).  Skim the first sentence of each new paragraph to look for anything new you haven’t already seen — either in this pages of this block of junk or in one of the past four books.  If it looks familiar, move on.  That is how I skimmed through about 400 pages of this book and trust me, I know exactly what happened in the end.

I’m sad for this book and sad for my favs Ayla and Jondalar.  How can Jean Auel treat these two this way?  They deserve better — as do Auel’s loyal readers.

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