Jaime Reyes Author

On Line Book Club Official Review: In the Beginning by Jaime Reyes

It’s the greatest story ever told, the origin of our belief in gods—not in just Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other specific religion but in religion itself. When did we start believing in deities? Where did the idea come from? Who brought us into contact with these so-called “gods”? Jaime Reyes, author of In the Beginning, presents an enticing theory in his fictional tale: a Neanderthal made it all up.

Circa 65,000 B.C.E.—Og is getting old. Unable to move well, the Neanderthal is beginning to wonder how he can remain useful—and fed—in his tribe of hunters and gathers. Then, like a bolt of lightning, it hits him. One night, as a particularly horrific storm bears down on them, Og uses his knowledge of nature and flares of showmanship to convince the tribe that he has special contact with spirits that control the world around them. When the storm safely passes and the hunt the next morning is successful, everyone reveres Og as their wise liaison to the spirits. His life—and the world—will never be the same.

From the first spiritual drawings in his cave to passing his teachings to his children and grandchildren, In the Beginning follows the innovative Og and the evolution of the world’s first religion. Day after day, year after year, Og and his alleged spiritual guides bring prosperity to his tribe through theatrical sacrifices and knowledge gained from decades of experience, and the religion. Day after day, year after year, Og and his alleged spiritual guides bring prosperity to his tribe through theatrical sacrifices and knowledge gained from decades of experience, and the tribe returns the favor, providing Og with riches, respect, a new mate, and a well-cared-for family. Yet just as he is preparing his eldest son to continue this divine ruse, a new threat looms on the horizon: homo sapiens. As Og gets older and the world around the tribe changes, one question must be answered: can the Neanderthals and their faith stand the test of time?

I started this book with high hopes. Upon reading the description, I loved the idea of a Neanderthal having begun the concept of religion and through something other than “divine intervention.” The story did not disappoint. The plot is simple yet strong; it makes perfect sense with we know about Neanderthals and what has been speculated, yet I never felt as though it were played out. Every part of this novel, from the history of Neanderthals to tiny moments of character development, play an important role. Reyes does well in planting minor seeds in the readers’ heads only to return to them and make them greatly more significant later on. Better yet, I could not always predict which of these small details would be key a few chapters later. This fact alone is enough to keep the reader going, just to see how a minor character or seemingly mundane event might return with a vengeance.

A wide variety of characters helps to make this book oddly progressive considering the fact that it is about fictional events from thousands of years ago. In addition to a mix of Neanderthals and homo sapiens, there are male and female characters that almost all have equal weight in the story. My favorite was Mina, Og’s granddaughter with a flare for spirituality, hunting and fighting skills to rival any man’s, a fierce heart, and a well-developed mind. Og and the author both treat women like more than just tools to produce/raise children, cook, and skin the kill, a refreshing perspective for fiction about prehistory.

However, the book was not perfect. In fact, the writing of In the Beginning could use a lot of work. On the one hand, the simple writing style proved easy to read. It also felt appropriate for the time period in which this book takes place as it mimics the sort of oral storytelling through which Og’s spiritual teachings would have been passed down to future generations. On the other hand, I grew bored with Reyes’s writing. The storytelling style usually catches my attention, much like when someone relays a fairy tale or folktale. Here, though, it more reads as a classroom lecture. The tone was very matter of fact without any real emotion or tension despite the events calling for such reactions. Reyes also rambled at points, especially in the introduction and the last couple chapters, and I might not have continued reading if I hadn’t been so fascinated by the concept.

All things considered, I give In the Beginning by Jaime Reyes 3 out of 4 stars. In addition to the writing not being very compelling, I noticed a few grammatical errors such as missing commas. If someone didn’t have an eagle eye, they probably wouldn’t notice them. However, they did occasionally distract me and suggest that the writer should have given it another quick run-through. Regardless, lovers of historical fiction—especially unconventional views on history—and those fascinated by the origins of our various cultures and ways of life will want to check this book out. Be warned, though, that this work throws into question the validity of all organized religion, Christianity included. If you are highly religious or are not interested in looking at history in new ways, In the Beginning is probably not for you.
Online Book Club

Scroll to Top