When a Belgian industrialist is diagnosed with cancer and told that he doesn't have long to live, he decides to bet his fortune on Prof. Zirkovsky's research. He convinces Zirkovsky to quit his teaching position in Brussels and set up a laboratory in Charlerois, a small town, in order to conduct experiments with monkeys.
When Zirkovsky's research shows the first signs of success, animal-rights activists demand him to abandon his experiments. A series of violent attacks against the lab lead the industrialist to call his insurer, Alfred Grail, a Vietnam veteran living in Switzerland. What Alfred Grail will find in Belgium will shake his beliefs and make him change his life.
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
From Chapter 3
On her sixth birthday, Juliette Rooij had stopped speaking. It had happened without warning, threats, or tears. As of that day, Lana Rooij had never heard her daughter say another word.
Lana had consulted doctors and done everything to encourage her daughter to speak again. Every evening, she kissed her gently to bed, wishing that life was the same as before, but every morning, Juliette's silence broke her heart.
“The girl misses her father,” a child psychiatrist had diagnosed. Maybe he was right, but Lana Rooij had no idea who Juliette's father was, for in Lana's past, there had been many men.
Juliette was a very intelligent child who absorbed knowledge with passion, but refused to answer whenever she was questioned on any subject. When Juliette made drawings, it was always the same picture. On top of the page, a sun whose rays burned the page from end to end. Under the sun, a house with a balcony.
A woman and a little girl stood on the balcony. Both had long blond hair and wore skirts. On some drawings, Juliette drew the girl's eyes with such intensity that her pencil pierced the paper. On others, it was the woman's eyes. The woman and the girl never smiled.
Lana Rooij had placed one of Juliette's drawings beside the bathroom mirror. Day after day, she stared at the woman and the girl on the balcony, wondering why they didn't move, why they didn't speak, what they were waiting for.
From Chapter 5
“Vietnam will make a man out of you,” his father had said to Alfred Grail on Alfred's seventeenth birthday.
His reaction had shocked his parents. “I'm not going to Vietnam. I want to be an artist.”
“An artist,” his father had replied, “what a silly fantasy.”
“An artist,” his mother had reacted, “my poor child will starve.”
Months later, Alfred had unexpectedly changed his mind, but he had never told his parents why, he had never told anybody. The reason had been a sixteen-year-old girl named Marylou Rose Parker.
Marylou was not beautiful, she was not even pretty, but she knew how to listen.
One summer afternoon, when Alfred was alone fishing in the nearby river, a girl had walked to him and stood still at his side. She was Marylou Rose Parker.
“Why do you like fishing?” she had asked.
“Because I like to look at the water,” Alfred had answered.
“Do you catch a lot of fish?”
“Two or three each afternoon, but I throw them back into the river.”
The girl had gone home two hours later, but she had returned the following day. “What do you do when you're not fishing?”
“I read comics.”
“And when you are not reading?”
Marylou had been the first person to see Alfred's drawings. He had feared what she would say, for she was a girl, and girls could not draw. She had looked at the sheets of paper covered with lines and shadows, images distilled from Alfred's dreams.
She had said nothing, but she had nodded, as though she understood. It was only then that Alfred had begun to talk, abruptly at the beginning, enthusiastically as he went on, whispering as the night approached. Marylou Rose Parker had listened to him all the way.
As of that moment, the two had become inseparable.