Shadow Stories

Mother issues 40,000 years ago, and now

A small family, circa 38,000 BCE, sleeps on a shared bed of bison hides and pine boughs. The family is “warm,” which in their rudimentary but allusive language connotes family, safety and comfort. “When they slept, they were the body of the family. That is how they thought of themselves together, as one body that lived and breathed.” The daughter in the group, Girl, will have reason to remember and long for that warmth. This earthy closeness, and its disintegration, is reminiscent of Claire Cameron’s previous novel The Bear, which opens with its five-year-old protagonist curled up with her little brother, first in a tent, and then in a Coleman cooler, where they narrowly escape being eaten alive. The Bear is a high-risk plunge into consciousness-construction, the carrying voice being the free-associative but eminently pragmatic interior monologue of a very young and very traumatized child. The Last...