In 1899 Jeremy, a young engineer, leaves a small town in Maine to oversee the construction of a railroad across East Africa. In charge of hundreds of Indian laborers, he soon finds himself the reluctant hunter of two lions that are killing his men in almost 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 the African who helps him hunt.
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 closely shadows a family of gorillas, the last of their group to survive the encroachment of local poachers. Max bears a striking gift for understanding the ape's non-verbal communication, but their precarious solidarity 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.
In the late 1890s, by the River Tsavo, in the country now called Kenya, two lions began to kill and eat people. Working in concert, they preyed on Africans, Indian railroad workers, and British administrators. Dozens of men hunted the cats. Extensive barricades were built up around all human habitation. Still, every few nights, the lions would somehow appear by the firelight inside a camp or village. They seemed bigger than any lions previously recorded, and stronger. They would drag someone away. In the darkness the screams of the victim were suddenly cut off. They ate over a hundred people.
THE STEAMSHIP GOLIATH,
EAST INDIAN OCEAN
DECEMBER 7, 1899
Three hundred miles from Mombasa, the steamship
Goliath happened upon an Arabian dhow becalmed on
the Indian Sea. The sail hung slack, the rope trailing
loose, and no person was visible aboard. The steamer rumbled
deep in its guts to begin its emergency halt.
Carrying his iced tea, ...
With 22 out of 25 members rating it 4 or 5 stars, Three Weeks in December is a clear winner with BookBrowse readers. A great choice for book clubs, this novel will certainly inspire lively discussions. Here's what they have to say:
This is a book to savor. Read it slowly because the words transform into poetic images of Africa. Schulman weaves back and forth between the stories of two emotionally challenged people: Jeremy, who is struggling with being gay in the nineteenth century and Max, who is coping with Asperger's. It is a beautiful, beautiful book - one that you'll finish and immediately want to read again. Look for clues as to what makes these two seemingly disparate stories connected - the truth will surprise you (Mary R). Each character is challenged by what sets them apart from society... Add life threatening events to each of their stories, and you have a compelling and moving novel, a story that you can't help thinking about days after finishing it (Christine P). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (1050 words).
One of the main characters in Audrey Schulman's Three Weeks in December - an American ethnobotanist named Max who has Asperger's Syndrome - finds herself in East Africa searching for a medicinal plant. Along the way, she follows a family of exquisite mountain gorillas that have somehow escaped local poachers and finds that she has an amazing ability to understand their non-verbal communication.
According to the African Wildlife Foundation, mountain gorillas (gorilla beringei beringei) are the largest living primate. The aptly named silverback - the dominant male that leads and controls each family - is often the biggest ape of the group and can weigh up to 500 pounds. Though mountain gorillas are extraordinarily strong - it is said ...
If you liked Three Weeks in December, try these:
Robert Sapolsky's exhilarating account of his life in the bush with neighbors both human and primate, by turns hilarious and poignant. The culmination of more than two decades of experience and research, A Primate's Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost scientist-writers.
By turns darkly humorous and poignant, James Scudamores Booker Prize-nominated novel is a highly original, surprising take on the rags-to-riches story.
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"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist
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