Excerpt from Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Three Weeks in December

by Audrey Schulman

Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman X
Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 353 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

" - No tribes are involved. No people at all," Roswell interrupted. "This vine, it grows several thousand feet up in the mountains, in a national park."

This caught her for a moment. She turned the fact over in her mind, examining it. "Where'd you... Who found the vine?"


"Excuse me?"

"Mountain gorillas."

"Look," said Stevens. "Jaguars were the ones to first use quinine, gnawing on bark from a cinchona tree whenever they had malaria. Pigeons discovered the power of coffee beans. For thousands of years humans have learned about drugs from watching other animals. Primates are especially sophisticated at botanical pharmacology. Female muriqui monkeys, for example, utilize over forty plants for everything from parasite control to contraceptives."

Max said, "Contraceptives?"

"During famines, the females consume a plant that's high in a progesterone-mimicking compound so they won't waste energy on pregnancy."


"Can we get back to the subject here?" Roswell used shorter sentences, a sort of staccato delivery. "Dubois is her name. The person who sent in the vine. She's French. A primatologist working with gorillas in the Rwandan mountains. She noticed the adult males would crush leaves of the vine in their mouths, then spit them out. Got curious about possible bioactive properties. Sent a sample to her college roommate who's a chemist."

"A chemist who happens to work for us," Stevens said. Roswell continued, "We know gorillas are genetically prone to heart disease. Among the males in captivity, it's the biggest killer. Half the great apes you see at the zoo are on Lipitor."

Stevens held up one finger, waiting for the pause. He was proud of this next bit of information. "Contrast those gorillas with the ones in the mountains where this vine grows. The area happens to be where Dian Fossey set up her research station in the 1960s. For the decades since then, scientists have been doing postmortems on every dead gorilla they've found in the area, recording the results." He added, "No sign of heart disease. Ever. No myocardial infarctions, no dilated cardiomyopathy, nada. Even in the ones that die of old age."

Roswell said, each word slow and enunciated. "This vine might be why."

"Fuck." Fricatives so satisfying. "Fuck." On bad days she used to not be able to stop her swearing. Now she used it as a control valve, letting off steam when necessary. Done this way, it sounded almost the way others swore.

The men went still. They were surprised, but not necessarily displeased.

Max closed her eyes, breathing, concentrating on finding errors in their logic. "Gorillas are a different species. What works on them might not..."

"You ever talk to a vet specializing in great apes? They fill the prescriptions at CVS. The only difference is dosage."

Max said, "The primatologist? What about her?"


"Yes, she found it. She's got a prior claim."

"Well, about her, there are pluses and minuses." Stevens chose his words with care. "She did sign away her claim."

"A big plus," said Roswell.

"She signed in exchange for us paying for park guards to patrol the mountains for the next decade. I guess hunters in the area tend to kill the gorillas. She's a big softie about the apes."

Roswell said, "Paying for the guards works for us. We'll be protecting the world's remaining mountain gorillas. The advertising department will love it."

"And the minuses with her?" asked Max.

"She won't send us more of the vine or show us where she found it."

"Why not?"

"God knows," Stevens said. "She's weird."

"Dr. Tombay, listen." Roswell thumped his finger on the arm of his chair as methodically as a metronome, beating out a rhythm to his words. "Because we're paying for the guards," thump, "she'll let you stay at the research station." Thump. "You can search as long as you want." Thump. "She thinks no one can find the vine."

Excerpted from Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman. Copyright © 2012 by Audrey Schulman. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Mountain Gorillas of Africa

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.