What if a living specimen of Homo habilis appeared in the pecan grove of a female artist living in Georgia? What if she reached out to her ex-husband, a restaurant owner in the small town of Beulah Fork, to help her establish the creature’s precise identity? From these dramatic speculations, Michael Bishop creates a complex story spanning several years in the late 1980s and intertwining the lives of many fascinating and/or exasperating characters, including: RuthClaire Loyd, an artist tasked with an ambitious project to illustrate several species of early human progenitors; Paul Loyd, the narrator of Ancient of Days, who believes that his rekindled devotion to RuthClaire will somehow win her back; Brian Nollinger, an anthropologist at the Yerkes Primate Center, whom Paul entices into this matter with disconcerting results; Dwight “Happy” McElroy, a televangelist out of Rehobeth, Louisiana, who never passes up a chance to fund-raise, proselytize, or damn; A. P. Blair, a world-famous paleontologist and authority on human evolution, who at first believes that RuthClaire’s “hominid” is an inept hoax; and Adam Montaraz, the habiline himself, a bipedal fossil whom RuthClaire has christened and whom she dares to take into her home.
Over the course of Ancient of Days, these characters and others work out their loves and conflicts across a variety of backdrops—from rural Georgia to the bistros and back alleys of Atlanta, all the way to the forests and caves of antique Montaraz, an enigmatic island under the dictatorial sway of “Baby Doc” Duvalier of Haiti. A rare combination of science fiction, noir mystery, and comedy of manners, Ancient of Days will involve and challenge you as have few other novels.