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Interesting mix of plot and anthropology

November 03, 2010|By Lyda Truick
(Photo courtesy…)

La Cañada resident Dr. Debra Grubb, a.k.a. Debra Austin, is a part-time paleoanthropology enthusiast, former obstetrician and philosopher. And if that wasn't enough syllables for you, she's an author of a provocative novel titled "Daughter of Kura." Set in Africa around the dawn of Homo erectus nearly 2 million years ago, the story provides a fascinating sociological perspective of a tribe called the Kura.

Three generations of women, Chirp, Whistle and Snap, sit as matriarchal leaders to a peaceful hunter-gatherer collective. Living seems simple but not easy, as there is a constant threat of wildlife lurking in the shadows. The tribe marks the turning of seasons with various symbolic rituals, one of which bonds them to a mate for the long winter months. Men come from surrounding tribes hoping to be selected by one of the women, forming a bond based more on need than love.

As the time comes for the bonding ritual, and for Snap to choose her first mate, two significant strangers emerge on the scene. The mate of Snap's mother Whistle does not return from hunting, forcing her to make a new choice in mate. Snap chooses an intriguing young stranger called Ash, while Whistle chooses Bapoto, a stranger claiming there is a spirit called the "Great One" that guides the fates of the living and the dead. Snap is enamored with her mate, but very skeptical of Bapoto and his theories that contradict so many of the tribe's traditions.

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It isn't long before Bapoto's beliefs take hold of other tribe members, and conflicts arise between Snap and Bapoto. When he tries to force her to mate with someone else, she rebels and is banished from the village. She struggles to survive in the wild, through pregnancy and horrible weather, and begins to start a new life for herself. Soon, Bapoto's true colors emerge, and many things change not only for Kura, but for Snap and her new tribe.

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