From the bestselling author of The Bear, the enthralling story of two women separated by millennia, but linked by an epic journey that will transform them both
40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate.
But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself.
In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women's lives.
Haunting, suspenseful, and profoundly moving, The Last Neanderthal asks us to reconsider all we think we know about what it means to be human.
CLAIRE CAMERON grew up in Toronto and studied at Queen's University. She led canoe trips in Algonquin Park and worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing and white-water rafting in Oregon. She lived in San Francisco and London, UK, until moving back to Toronto, where she now lives with her husband and two sons. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Review of Books and The Rumpus. She is a staff writer at The Millions. Her first novel, The Line Painter, won the Northern Lit Award from the Ontario Library Service and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Crime Writing Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel, The Bear, was a #1 national bestseller and was longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
"To call this book a historical novel would be a great mistake—The Last Neanderthal goes a lot further and deeper than that. Claire Cameron reunites us with our past, with the beginning of humanity. In this book I lived next to people who populated the earth a very long time ago and have long since vanished completely. To make you feel for them and, what is more, feel with them, is a great achievement. It is one of those novels that opens the world to you in a different way, and after finishing it this world will never look the same to you again." —Herman Koch, international bestselling author of The Dinner and Dear Mr. M
"Claire Cameron's book is a necessary, brilliantly feminist and intuitive reading of our earliest history. She memorably paints a full world with her Neanderthals and binds it perfectly to our own." —Sheila Heti, author of Ticknor and How Should a Person Be?
"A powerful, warm and thought-provoking book, that artfully blends facts with fiction to put flesh on many abstract scientific debates." —Yuval Noah Harari, international bestselling author of Sapiens and Homo Deus
"Cameron has an exceptional ability to build tension and suspense through tuning us into the drama and plot lines inherent in the natural world. . . . The Last Neanderthal masterfully examines our connections to our evolutionary cousins . . . [which] speaks to the author's deep empathy, consummate skill as an artist and deep-hearted vision. The Last Neanderthal is a novel to cherish." —Toronto Star
"Cameron pulls out all the literary stops in giving Neanderthals as much free rein, agency and authenticity as possible. . . . This could easily be the best book that shakes up the classic Neanderthal tropes in science fiction and fantasy." “Los Angeles Review of Books
"Impressively executed. . . . The contrasting and similar reactions to motherhood are emblematic of the book’s greatest strength—its ability to collapse time and space to draw together seemingly dissimilar species: ancestors and successors, writer and reader." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A deeply sympathetic portrait of a Neanderthal girl struggling to survive some 40,000 years ago, battling leopards, bison, a brutal winter and starvation. Her vivid survival story is interwoven with the tale of a pregnant archaeologist named Rosamund, who makes a startling discovery when she finds the fossilized remains of a Neanderthal and a human buried next to each other." —The New York Times
"The women of Cameron's The Last Neanderthal are fierce, whatever their time period. This meditation on motherhood, passion and survival is lush and lovingly detailed, creating a world that's frighteningly accurate and reassuringly heartfelt. Couldn't put it down." —Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach and Son of a Trickster
"The Last Neanderthal is a book like no other. Claire Cameron effortlessly inhabits the worlds of two very different and very pregnant women—a female Neanderthal desperate to survive and an archeologist who fears losing control of her dig site—and shows us they are not that different after all. A powerful novel that will make you cry. And laugh, too." —Marcy Dermansky, author of The Red Car
"The Last Neanderthal is astonishing. With delicacy and tenderness, Claire Cameron imagines the struggles of a Neanderthal family to sustain itself physically and psychologically in the face of extinction. As we follow Girl, her mother and brothers, and a mysterious stray called Runt, we are put in touch with what is most ancient and noble in human nature. At the same time, the parallel contemporary narrative shows us how little, over the eons, the human heart has changed. I'm thrilled by Cameron's adventurous and deeply empathic tale, an example of what fiction at its best can do." ?Pamela Erens, author of Eleven Hours
"Claire Cameron's newest novel, The Last Neanderthal, is fascinating, insightful and poignant; a moving narrative of the last survivors of a harsh and unforgiving environment that is both exotic and achingly familiar. It is a story of our profound connectedness to our ancestors, exploring the ultimate question of what it means to be truly 'human.'" “Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter
"This rich, literary, science-based imagining of Neanderthal life intrigued me from the start. The parallels between two women navigating complex lives from across time and space—and across a narrow species boundary—is captivating in itself. But more than this, while reading The Last Neanderthal, I felt myself standing with new feet within our human lineage. This book makes me want to pay attention to the senses that are in our blood—an alertness to vision, smell, touch, weather, the presence of other creatures—that can come naturally to us as a Homo sapiens, but have been lost from inattention and lack of use. I find myself walking into the world with a heightened awareness of what it means to be fully human." ?Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet and Mozart's Starling
"Cameron challenges the reader to consider his or her own existence. This is an engaging tale that celebrates the search for life's meaning and its quotidian nature." —Bookpage
"Readers have been captivated by stories of prehistoric humans for eons—well, at least since Jean Auel's phenomenal 1980 best seller The Clan of the Cave Bear. Claire Cameron's arresting new novel The Last Neanderthal investigates the same time period with significantly more literary skill." —USA Today
"Devoured it like Girl devoured the meat strips. Could not put it down." —Shelagh Rogers, via Twitter
"Cameron has ultimately written a compassionate extinction narrative, a counter to a cold social Darwinism where only the fittest survive." ?Maisonneuve
"[The Last Neanderthal] ties together humans and Neanderthals in unprecedented ways, while Cameron's immense storytelling talents remain completely enthralling." ?Huffington Post
"It's perhaps a strange thing to say about a novel that's fundamentally about extinction, but The Last Neanderthal is a pleasure to read." “Jezebel
"A provocative look at our earliest history, this book will stick with you." —Canadian Living