The novel is composed of chapters that alternate between two narratives. The first begins in 1986 as protagonist John Monegal, a twenty-three-year-old black American, is undergoing survival training in a fictional East African country in preparation for a trip back in time to study proto-humans. The narrative, told in first person, centers primarily on his two years spent two million years in the past.
The other, third-person narrative begins in 1963 with John as a small child in Spain. John’s mother was a mute prostitute in Seville. Fearing that she would be unable to provide for her son, fathered by a black member of the U.S. Air Force, she gives the baby to a randomly selected Air Force family. John grows up as the adopted son of an enlisted man. Initially slow to develop, he adapts to his new life but is haunted by vividly realistic dreams of a primitive world that he slowly realizes is East Africa two million years ago.
After John’s adoptive father dies in a car accident, John moves to the Bronx with his mother and sister. When he discovers that his mother is writing a book about his dream experiences, he runs away to Florida. He works odd jobs, under the name Joshua Kampa, for eight years. His vivid dreams of Pleistocene Africa recur, and he avidly reads about anthropology and paleontology, becoming an amateur expert. He gets the attention of a famous hominid paleontologist from the African country of Zarakal, who offers him a chance...
(The entire section is 522 words.)