Imagine a living specimen of a multimillion-year-old hominid species, Homo habilis, encountering the contemporary world.
Told in the first-person narrative of Paul Loyd, divorced owner of a small town restaurant, Ancient of Days tells the story of a habiline man found wandering in a Georgia pecan orchard, a living descendant of a habiline tribe, brought from Africa via Haiti as a slave. Paul’s ex-wife, RuthClaire, takes in the living fossil, appropriately naming him Adam, and as an artist she discovers Adam’s mute but vibrant artistic sensibility, falls in love with him, and marries him – much to Paul’s confusion and dismay.
And then the story begins to widen out onto a broader canvas, as Adam first faces persecution by small town Georgia Klansmen, then, surviving that, moves with RuthClaire to Atlanta and encounters the whole spectrum of American culture, from art critics and media spectacles to evangelists and punk clubs.
Throughout the peregrinations and travails of Adam, however, runs a rich and developing strain of self-conscious spiritual, intellectual, and artistic growth, interwoven with Adam’s genuine anguish over the problematic nature of his true humanity.
In the end, the central characters come together on the Haitian island of Montarez in the aftermath of crisis, and in a moment of illumination and revelation meet the mysterious and extraordinary origins of Adam and his race in human prehistory.