The cavekeeper’s daughter, by Nancy Boxer, is a work of anthropological fiction that stirs the interest of all who enjoy learning about the origins of a culture and who also appreciate a captivating adventure novel. Set in prehistoric Siberia, 11,000 years ago, The cavekeeper’s daughter captures the demise of an ancient way of life, the controversial rise to power of new tribal leaders, and the inevitable migration north to what is now Alaska.
Indeed, this book contains the perfect blend of anthropological fiction, mystery, and adventure, enhanced by an intriguing prehistoric landscape, quite reminiscent of Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins.
At the center of the story is the main character, Birdy, who, though she is but eleven years old, is in charge of the majority of the chores. Full-of-life, Birdy is not that fond of doing chores however, but rather is passionate about the art of storytelling. Interestingly, in this culture storytelling is considered to be a power that belongs to Father Sky, not Mother Earth. Women were not expected to narrate stories; Birdie, however, was quite adept at the oral tradition of storytelling-better, in fact, than her male counterparts. Conflict arises as Birdy’s storytelling endeavors continue despite the fact that the shaman is vehemently against her interruptions while he is teaching the art of tale-telling to his boys. Birdy finally has to hide behind bushes and attempt to learn more about storytelling . . . in secret.
There are a number of themes in The cavekeeper’s daughter to interest the reader. This book sheds light on a variety of issues, including the differences between men and women. The text will certainly ignite and interest feminists as it demonstrates, even as far back as prehistoric times, the limitations placed upon women in day-to-day life.
Birdy’s life changes forever when a tsunami hits; in fact words can barely describe the apocalyptic scene as mayhem ensues. This passage that tells of prophetic animal behavior, though, sums up the energy of the scene: “She began to hear scurrying sounds, small animals running out from under cover. Oddly they ignored her as well as the other animals emerging from dens, even those traditional enemies that made them bolt or hide.Animals were running this way and stopping, then veering crazily in another direction. She’d never seen anything like it before.”
With no other option, Birdy and her people decide to head north with the remnant that is left of their tribe. Throughout the journey however, a sense of foreboding looms over the group. A dark secret links K’enemy and Birdy. The cavekeeper’s daughter is the story of maintaining tradition despite adverse circumstances and a different environment. This is evident when Antler is elevated to the status of “Great Father,” the shaman of the tribe.
Ultimately, this is a captivating tale of a clan’s journey into a new world and new culture, all the while preserving its ancient customs. In the midst of the great Bering migration, Boxer effectively portrays young Birdy’s coming of age while vividly presenting the adventures of an ancient culture through the vehicle of anthropological fiction.
The cavekeeper’s daughter is available from the PSIpress website.