Deftly weaving the forays of two individuals, separated by a century, into the unknown heart of Africa, Schulman’s fourth novel, her first in 11 years, tracks an engineer named Jeremy, who in 1889 accepts a contract to supervise the construction of a bridge in British-controlled East Africa, and female botanist Max Tombay, who travels to modern-day Rwanda at the behest of a pharmaceutical company in search of the next blockbuster drug. Though Max treads undaunted into gorilla territory, the threat posed by child soldiers makes her wonder if her search is worth it. Jeremy feels Africa’s pull in a more personal way; he’s an outcast in his Maine town and dreads a life spent at the side of his disapproving widowed mother. 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. Finding the lonely orphan in an armed child or the playful cat within a man-eating lion, she yields her story’s mysteries slowly, with evident relish. Agent: Richard Parks, the Richard Parks Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2011 Release date: 01/31/2012 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.