The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Ayla is little more than an infant when an earthquake destroys her home and claims her family. She wanders for days without food and shelter, eventually falling prey to a cave lion, who visciously slashes her leg. Wounded and alone, she's found on the brink of death by Iza, the medicine woman of the Clan. She adopts Ayla as a daughter and raises her to be a medicine woman of her line. But Ayla is different from the rest of the Clan, and there are some who never truly accept her. She must find the strength within herself to find her place in a confusing and dangerous world.
In The Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean M. Auel gives readers her unique perspective on the lives of neanderthals. By making the protagonist homo sapiens, it gives readers a comfortable lens through which to view this very different and yet very similar race of humans. Ayla herself is a highly likeable protagonist: she has plenty of gumption and curiosity, and the situations she gets herself into will keep you turning tha pages. Be warned however; while Auel's sweeping exposition on subjects like cultural evolution and ecology are interesting and informative, to some readers they grow repetitive by the end of the book (or in any subsequent readings).
This book is the first of her Earth's Children series. NB: In The Valley of Horses, the second book in the series, Auel's style morphs to include elements of the romance genre, including explicit love scenes.
View my suggested books by Jean M. Auel