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Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, by Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey. New York: Warner Books. $9.95.

Lucy is the name given to the ancient hominid whose 3.5 million-year-old remains Johanson and his colleagues found in Ethiopia. It was part of a rich find that has excited anthropologists and shed much new light on human roots. Johanson and Edey, a skilled science writer, take readers into the heart of this research -- explaining its technical intricacies, conveying its adventure in a text that moves with the speed and drama of a first-rate novel.

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