The story opens with the discovery of a mysterious box from the distant past. Its makers are five orphaned friends who hope to help civilizational knowledge survive disruptive climate change centuries in the future: the ending of the Ice Age. The bar is continuously raised as the box traverses more than a dozen settings to the present day. Readers are tacitly encouraged to partner with the author and fill in the blanks by considering their metaphorical boxes, lessons for the future from their past.
Exchanges between cultures and generations highlight human transience. Adoption is the preeminent motif, many characters being orphaned, or having adopted, or both. Nature’s agency is felt throughout the story, with animals, plants and landscapes presented as respected partners rather than resources to be exploited. Nothing can fully reconcile human contradictions, and true equilibrium must come from a transcendent perspective. Plural identity followed by association with all humans, past, present and future, is only a good start. Can we progress beyond all life forms? The book ends on the question: what can you do but hope?
Targeted Age Group:: 17+
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I'd written two novels and about two dozen stories, but made no attempts to publish them, as I realized my debut effort must be something more ambitious and unconventional. I felt, and feel, that even a multigenerational saga is rooted in a small number of place-time settings. I dreamed bigger, and decided to try and write a story that doesn't have human protagonists at its heart, but instead traces an object through successive historical settings, thus indirectly portraying the universality of the human condition.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
One of my aims was for The Oldest Word to pay a tribute to all that I love. Many historical characters are based on either individuals or, more broadly, periods and themes I admire, such as Stone Age Goddess worshippers or the syncretist thinkers of Al-Andalus. No one is truly admirable, a heroine or hero, and all my characters are a form of criticism.
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