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“The Earth’s Children” – Life After Twilight: A Twi-Hard’s Perspective

Author Jean M. Auel

I know. “Life after Twilight? How dare you even think it!” If you’re like me, reading the “Twilight” saga was like injecting passion into the heart of your simple existence.

Most Twi-Hards have already seen “Eclipse” at least once and the next film in the series, “Breaking Dawn”, won’t be released until Nov. 18, 2011. What is a Twi-Hard to do until then?

Luckily, I found an answer.

After it was suggested by a friend and fellow Twi-Hard, and I’d suffered for months from “Twilight” withdrawal, I read the “Earth’s Children” series by best-selling author Jean M. Auel, which starts with “The Clan of the Cave Bear.” The historical fiction series of five books, with a sixth due March 29, 2011, is set before the extinction of the Neanderthal race thousands of years ago and is based on the premise that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens interacted, violently clashing and intermixing.

Although the background is interesting and well-researched, I found myself drawn to and moved by the love story of the main characters, Ayla and Jondalar.

The first book introduces Ayla, a 5-year-old girl of the Homo Sapien race, who are known as the “Others” to the Neanderthals. Ayla is abandoned after her parents die during a violent earthquake. After wandering alone for days through what is now southern Europe, being mauled by a cave lion and left to die, she is rescued by an unlikely savior, Iza, a Neanderthal woman of the Clan of the Cave Bear. Although Neanderthals do not normally interact with Homo Sapiens, Iza is a childless Medicine Woman (doctor) of the Clan, feels, as a healer, it is her duty to nurse Ayla back to health. Iza her brother, Creb, who is the group’s Mog-ur (spiritual leader),quickly develop parent-like feelings for the child and adopt her into their household (hearth).

The book chronicles Ayla and her difficulties as a physical and intellectual outsider in the Clan, who rely on sign language as communication and live a strict and ancient existence. After reading the first book, I found Ayla to be one of the most magnificent heroines in literature and that I could relate with her struggles, including battles with self-esteem, loneliness, equality, destiny and love. I couldn’t wait to read the next books, where I found her destined lover, Jondalar, equally compelling. The series is exciting, thought-provoking and has changed the way I think about “Mother Earth” as well as my relationships. Also, not to sound like a total perv, but the sex scenes are erotic and
definitely come from a woman’s imagination.

The “Earth’s Children” series captures many of the elements I enjoy in the “Twilight” series and satiated my thirst for romance and drama. I found myself frequently relating Ayla and Jondalar’s experiences to Bella and Edward’s.

The only noteworthy downside of the series is that while Auel’s extensive research into the setting and people is commendable, it can at times be overwhelming and take away from Ayla and Jondalar’s saga. However, it’s not a coincidence her books have sold 34 million copies worldwide.

So, if you are worried about how to fill your time until “Breaking Dawn” hits theaters in late 2011, check out “Clan of the Cave Bear” and let another love story fill your world. — Kate Vendetta