Well, this is a first for Letters from Elsewhere. There have been letters to the dead before, but never one that crosses millennia – seventy-four of them! Here’s the letter from today’s visitor, Dr Eloise Kluft, who has joined me from the pages of Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton.
I believe it’s high time to give poor old Charles Darwin a break and address one of my heartfelt epistles to you instead. But how does one begin to compose a prehistoric ‘thank you’ note? Perhaps in your time this would have taken the form of a gesture, or maybe a chant or a song? But as one of our own contemporary songs goes, I’m afraid that all I have are words. While it’s difficult to know how to thank you, I am nevertheless compelled to do so, and this feels not only appropriate but natural… instinctive. I cannot know what form of communication, verbal or otherwise, you may have used, but I feel that even 74,000 years ago the concept of thankfulness, and the ability to express it, would have been an inherent quality – a vital aspect of what made us human. Gratitude is a universal language, after all?
I will never forget the day I heard the rumours, the whispers that something very special, something that might add another crucial piece to the human puzzle, had been found in the ice on Mt Kenya. I still count my blessings every day that you came my way. Into my laboratory, into my care, under my gaze. Oh but you made us work so hard to unravel your secrets, my girl! And as much as you were celebrated and cherished, you were feared by those who could never accept such a challenge to their own cherished beliefs.
But for everything you carried with you on this last stage of your journey, all the revelations, all challenges and, yes, even the dangers, I thank you, Sarah. (I hope you do not mind the name we’ve given you in our time?) Who knows how, or why, you fell into that glacier, but I thank you for falling into my life, in your rare, fractured, mysterious and ancient form. By allowing me to flesh out your life using both science and imagination, you have brought me back so thrillingly into mine. To all its wonders and to a new appreciation of everything I have to be grateful for.
Whatever your struggles, whatever your joys, I sense that you met them with courage and curiosity. You may have gone hungry too often in your lifetime, but I wonder, did you also stay hungry for life itself? Did you love, did you lose, did your heart break? And, if so, how did you pick yourself up again? What did you learn in your walk upon this planet – and perhaps more importantly, what did you teach, what did you pass on?
You have taught me so much. Much that I hope to share with the wider world – and with any of your surviving ‘children’ – if they walk among us yet today. But above all, I have read your message from the past as a reminder that I should live my own life as fully as I can, right here and in the consciousness of the present moment. With a mind open to every possibility but also with a heart that’s brave enough to open up once more … to whatever may come.
Thank you, thank you, my dearest Sarah.
Dr Eloise Kluft
About Bone Lines
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.
Bone Lines is the debut novel from Stephanie Bretherton, out from Unbound in September. A genre-fluid dual narrative, it spans the space between literary, speculative-fiction, ‘present day’ sci-fi, historical fantasy and ‘women’s interest’ with its pair of fascinating female heroines.
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.
You can find more information or pre-order special editions here.
About Stephanie Bretherton
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?)