Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: A Meeting of Clans: A Misfits and Heroes Adventure by Kathleen Flanagan Rollins

Realism with Touches of Mysticism in a Great Story

A Meeting of Clans is the story of two groups of pre-historic wanderers (clans) who discover they are not the only people in Southern Mexico 14,000 years ago, and what happens when they discover each other. 

As I read the book, there were a number of ‘isms’ that came to my mind, including realism, mysticism, and empiricism.  First and foremost, the book tries to give a realistic picture of life 14,000 years ago.  Today, we have to dodge traffic and avoid our boss when he/she is in a bad mood.  The individuals in this book had to dodge stampeding mastodons and avoid hungry saber-toothed tigers.  The world has changed, just a bit, and Rollins does a great job in describing the nature of those differences.  But she does so in a way that also reveals some significant parallels to modern-day life – a drive to understand and control, a need to belong, a drive to explore.

The book is also sprinkled with magic and mysticism.  In some cases, the myths are well-known; in others, they are less common but with a familiar feel.  And they add a spice to the story.  The author is giving us a view into the minds of these peoples and the ways they perceived the world.  (Unless, of course, you believe these events really happened as described.)

But the ‘ism’ that captured my thoughts in A Meeting of Clans is empiricism, e.g., the role of systematic observation in the formation of ideas.  It is a matter of academic debate exactly what science and medicine the peoples of the Ice Age would have mastered – even the possibility that humans inhabited this region 14,000 years ago is not known with certainty.  But Rollins weaves an interesting story around clans with considerable skills ranging from medicine and dentistry to astronomy.  Would people of this era have these skills?  Or would they still be so focused on meeting their biological and safety needs that no one could devote the time needed to understand the movement of the stars?  Would someone with a broken leg be nursed back to health or would they be abandoned because they put too great a strain on the group?

Finally, as this book is part of a series, I’ll mention that this novel is self-contained and so, you could read it without reading the previous books.  However, as someone who read one of the two previous books, I can say that I felt much more comfortable with the clan that I knew from the previous reading compared to the peoples that were new to me.  The familiarity gets you into the story more quickly.

A book such as this in the magical realism genre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it’s yours (or you want to dip your toe into this literary style), I can recommend A Meeting of Clans as a well-written and engrossing example.