Audrey Schulman introduces us first to Jeremy, a deeply repressed American engineer, hired by the railroad in the late 19th century, to build a railroad across British East Africa, to facilitate European colonization. Supervising hundreds of imported workers from India and navigating the many distinct local cultures and tribes, Jeremy feels alien in this world. Until he is forced by his position to track two lionesses who have been hunting and killing both workers and locals. Then, he begins to truly face his internal demons.
Schulman’s second story takes place 60 years later when a brilliant PhD is approached by a pharmaceutical company intent on locating a vine that grows in Africa, which may revolutionize the treatment of stroke. Despite the social limitations of her Asperger’s diagnosis, Max, a woman, eagerly accepts the company’s offer and takes off for a remote research station in the Congo. As she gets to know the other researchers and begins searching for the mysterious vine, Max also meets a gorilla family, whose behaviors she is able to read more astutely than she can humans. As political events turn violent and the gorillas face the growing danger of encroaching humanity — Max has to reexamine her loyalties.
The cast of characters is wonderful. Otombe, the wise native hunter who shows Jeremy how to track lions. Dubois, a French biologist determined to save the gorillas, no matter what the cost. Yoko, a researcher who is subtly trying to undermine Max’s pharmaceutical work. Then throw in some hunger, malaria, tribes with armed children, and a few brain-eating worms. It’s quite an amazing story.
More about the author, Audrey Schulman.