In this readable, exciting, and historically enlightening novel with two separate plots, Audrey Schulman accomplishes an incredible task. She makes the individual plots totally compelling and uniquely character-driven as they shift back and forth in alternating chapters, always leaving the reader panting for more and anxious to keep reading toward a conclusion. What is most seductive about the novel is that the plots take place in two different time periods and settings—one, in the area of what is now Kenya in 1899, and the other, in Virunga National Park, on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, in 2000. In the first plot a man from Bangor, Maine, responsible for building a railroad from Mombasa to Kisumu, through Amboseli, must deal with two large and bloodthirsty lions, reportedly over nine feet in length, as they lie waiting to pick off railroad workers; in the second, a young scientist with Asperger’s Syndrome is charged with finding a vine that is consumed by mountain gorillas and which dramatically reduces the incidence of both stroke and heart disease in their species. If Max, the researcher is able to obtain samples of the vine, a pharmaceutical company will, among other benefits, provide armed security to ensure the survival of the gorilla population in Virunga National Park, ad infinitum. Somehow Schulman manages to connect these two disparate plots in the conclusion, leaving the reader wholly satisfied on all levels.
Category Archive for 'Rwanda'
Every Sunday afternoon in Kigali, Rwanda, the pool at the Mille-Collines Hotel is a gathering spot for government workers, wealthy Rwandans engaged in various trades, aid workers, journalists, foreign visitors, and enterprising prostitutes, who gather to drink, exchange news, gossip among themselves, and participate in the “vaguely surrealistic play being acted out at the pool.” The pool is, in many ways, a microcosm of life in Rwanda, illustrating the pressures and competing interests among various facets of society, all wanting to protect what they already have, at the very least, and, they hope, to increase their power, influence, or wealth.
Through these people who visit the pool, all of whom were real and who are described with their real names, Gil Courtemanche, a former journalist in Rwanda himself, boldly illustrates the growing resentments and fears which tear apart the fabric of society and lead to the genocide of almost a million Tutsi people in 1994.
In a lively and fast-paced narrative, Bill Weber and Amy Vedder document threats to the gorillas of Rwanda from 1978 1992, presenting graphic accounts of animals injured by snares, beheaded by poachers, exposed to diseases borne by humans, allowed to die for lack of medical care, and forced to live in ever decreasing habitats, with more and more limited food supplies. The outbreak of the Rwandan civil war in 1993, and the ensuing genocide of over a million people, which no western nation or the U.N. intervened to prevent, are depicted dramatically, emotionally, and thoroughly, as the research team returns to Rwanda to find their workers dead, missing, or in jail. Ironically, the gorillas are thriving.