A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.
In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.
Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.
Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.
Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters: One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery.
The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love.
Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.
She watches her sleeping, the tender breath coming slow and easy. Eyelashes fluttering in gentle dreaming. Watching. This is her task alone now.
When the men of her kind became fathers they received their markings in a ceremony that women were not permitted to witness, but she had seen it once, well-hidden and quiet. A very fine, sharp arrowhead was warmed in the fire. Deep sounds rose and fell in humming. Hands were held behind the back, but no force was used or needed. This was for pride. This made a man. Three quick cuts, like fingers, on each side of the upper chest, then widened and sealed with a stick, ember red from the pit of the fire.
She is both mother and father now. She is a whole tribe.
She makes a decision. Prepares the fire, blesses and heats the tools, comes to stillness and looks long and deep into the flames. Elusive yet alive with ways and wisdom beyond understanding, the voices of the ancestors could be heard within its silences. But this treacherous attraction has also left its mark upon her. She knows both the beauty and the fury of fire all too well, the skin of her forearm tells the pitiful tale from a careless moment of play. Pain she will never forget.
Her flint is not fine or sharp enough (is it hot enough?) but she does not care, she needs to feel. Something. To know that she is not made of stone and dust. She closes her eyes and begins to deepen her breath, turns back into the sacred place until all has slowed to nothing.
Then she drops the stones she has been beating, but keeps the humming buried low within her gut. Now. She winces as she draws the first cut, but makes no cry, the child still sleeps. The cut is jagged, the blood flows too fast but she stops it with the smouldering. The smell. She had forgotten the smell, different somehow when it is your own flesh. The next cut is better, faster, cleaner. She gets the angle right, keeps all the cuts high and close. It is done.
In the morning the child notices, reaches out to touch but she pushes her hand firmly away. She avoids her questioning gaze, draws deeply on this new authority and they move on. Her father, her brothers are with her now once more and at her shoulders again.
But what of the child’s father? Where is he now? For all her determination to forget, she sees him each time she looks into her daughter’s eyes. What more might they have exchanged, what more might she have learned from him? How might he have found and fed the softness in her, now all but gone.
She recalls how her mother and father had been with each other, their looks, their quarrels soon forgiven, their care for each other. Not all pairings were so blessed, she understood this, she had seen some couplings come and go, had seen the bruises of the battles to mate in other members of her clan. She had witnessed the fear of those left alone, whether by death or choice or theft. And then there were those other times, during the gatherings, those forgiven nights of the year under certain moons when pairs might be permitted to separate and find another for only a few hours, if all were willing, if all agreed. Not every pair took this path, but for some it was a way to feed a threatening hunger, or to welcome fresh seed into a bond that had been unable to bring new life to birth.
But she had always believed it would be her destiny to have what her parents had enjoyed, she had been determined to settle for nothing less, to resist any attempt at a trade between tribes, unless it suited her. She knew her gifts were valued above many things, and she knew she might bring good to her band if she agreed to an advantageous match with a long beard, or his son, or with a water talker or a herd runner. But she had known also that she would never be forced. She knew that she channelled a different kind of force that must be free to flow, could not be coerced.
Perhaps she had taken advantage of that, perhaps her brothers (those whose company she has pined for since) were right to resent her pride. And would this pride have tainted her own attempts at partnership? Would she have tired of the one with the sunburnt hair, would he have tired of her? Could he have looked away from her faults and she from his? But these things are beyond answer now and pointless to ponder. She knows that she must find and sharpen the flint within her own blood once more. No more dreams of softness.
You can purchase Bone Lines from Amazon
About the author
Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast
Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.
Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)