Summary and book reviews of Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman

Three Weeks in December

by Audrey Schulman

Three Weeks in December
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    Jan 2012, 353 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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.

Paperback original

HISTORICAL NOTE

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


ONE

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, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (654 words).

Media Reviews

Dennis Haritou, ThreeGuysOneBook.com

This is a moving story, told with great sympathy for the empirical facts, which doesn't stop us as readers from getting our guts kicked out by Audrey Schulman's great voice.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Advocacy fiction - a little preachy and obvious but also genuinely passionate about both the cause of African wildlife and the sensory experience of Africa, which Schulman brings to tactile life.

Reader Reviews

Jeanine L. (Wasilla, AK)

Three Weeks in December - Couldn't Put It Down
When first reading the description of this book I was a little leery. However, it took very little time and I was completely wrapped up in it. I hardly put it down. My husband, who doesn't often read fiction, read it too and has high praise for ...   Read More

Mary R. (San Jose, CA)

A Book To Savor
This is a book to savor. Read it slowly because the words transform themselves 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 ...   Read More

Jill S. (Eagle, ID)

Three Weeks in December
This is a great book, and Schulman has done a wonderful job in weaving together two stories separated by more than 100 years. Throughout the story, I was wondering how these two stories would come together. What a surprise! Although there are a ...   Read More

Hydee F. (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Memorable
I loved this book, and could not put it down. When I was taken away from reading it, I found myself thinking about it and the characters therein. The emotions stirred by this book are rare, and I am eager to now read other books by the author. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Mountain Gorillas of Africa

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.

mountain gorilla

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 ...

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