A small band of neanderthals comes in contact with a larger group of primitive humans, more sophisticated in their use of materials and language. For the neanderthal family, the encounter is inevitably fatal. The story is mostly told from their perspective (except for the final chapter, which is from the human viewpoint) and one of the more powerful aspects of the novel was seeing how each group viewed each other. A lot of things the humans do, their very appearance and method of locomotion is completely foreign to the neanderthals and often incomprehensible. So it's difficult for the reader to grasp what is happening at well. In fact there were a lot of scenes I never really knew what was going on. It's one of the times I'm actually glad I stopped and read a few reviews and synopses online, because if I hadn't I might not have figured out some of the events and actually given up on this book. The dense, image-heavy prose is also one of its strengths. You get a very real idea of what it might be like to live in the moment, and with heightened senses- the motion of leaves in a breeze, of sunlight over a rock, the feeling of moisture in the air, the ability to recognize and track things by scent- intense and close to the earth. The neanderthals are portrayed as being peaceful foragers with strong family ties whereas the humans they encounter who keep slaves, invoke spirits and use fermented drinks- appear to be cruel. They are afraid of the neanderthals, steal their children (for the relief of a woman who lost her own child and their amusement, it turns out) and act quite brutally. At least, that's as much as I could grasp. It's really a book that merits a second read.