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 on their camp. Plagued by fear, wracked with malaria, and alienated by a secret he can tell no one, he takes increasing solace in the company of an African man who scouts for him.
In 2000 Max, an American ethnobotonist, travels to Rwanda in search of 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 merciless assault of local poachers. Max bears a striking gift for communicating with the apes. But soon the precarious freedom of both 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 newest novel deftly confronts the struggle between progress and preservation, idiosyncrasy and acceptance. Evoking both Barbara Kingsolver and Andrea Barrett, this enthralling fiction, wise and generous, explores some of the crucial social and cultural challenges that, over the years, have come to shape our world.
The engaging story and memorable characters make this fine novel an ideal book club selection.