Realism with Touches of Mysticism in a Great Story
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
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.