“Two Americans have life-altering experiences in Africa a century apart in this environmentalist adventure novel” by the author of Theory of Bastards (Kirkus Reviews).
In 1899, Jeremy, a young engineer, leaves a small town in Maine to oversee the construction of a railroad across British East Africa. In charge of hundreds of Indian laborers, he becomes the reluctant hunter of two lions that are killing his men in nightly attacks. Plagued by fear and alienated by a secret he can tell no one, Jeremy takes increasing solace in the company of his African scout.
In 2000, Max, an American ethnobotanist, travels to Rwanda where she searches for an obscure vine that could become a lifesaving pharmaceutical. Stationed in the mountains, she shadows a family of gorillas—the last of their group to survive the local poachers. But their precarious freedom is threatened as a violent rebel group from the nearby Congo draws close.
Told in alternating perspectives that interweave the two characters and their fates, Audrey Schulman’s novel deftly confronts the struggle between progress and preservation, idiosyncrasy and acceptance.
Deftly weaving the forays of two individuals, separated by a century, into the unknown heart of Africa, Schulman's fourth novel, her first in 11 years, tracks an engineer named Jeremy, who in 1889 accepts a contract to supervise the construction of a bridge in British-controlled East Africa, and female botanist Max Tombay, who travels to modern-day Rwanda at the behest of a pharmaceutical company in search of the next blockbuster drug. Though Max treads undaunted into gorilla territory, the threat posed by child soldiers makes her wonder if her search is worth it. Jeremy feels Africa's pull in a more personal way; he's an outcast in his Maine town and dreads a life spent at the side of his disapproving widowed mother. Sympathetic to her two loners while accepting their faults, Schulman (A House Named Brazil) nudges her characters into their fears in order to measure their reactions, but her greatest asset is her cultural sensitivity. Finding the lonely orphan in an armed child or the playful cat within a man-eating lion, she yields her story's mysteries slowly, with evident relish.