book review: Ape House

Title: Ape House
Author: Sara Gruen
ISBN: 978-0385523219
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (September 7, 2010)
Category: contemporary fiction
Review source: publisher
Rating: B

Author Sara Gruen writes keenly and with dedicated zeal about animals and animal rights. She wrote about horses in Flying Changes, circus animals [mostly elephants] in Water for Elephants and now tackles human’s closest relation, the bonobo, in Ape House. Gruen meticulously researches her novels and that catapults Ape House from merely a well-written story to a thrilling novel, packed with insight and compassion about the bonobo.

The bonobos– Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani and Makena– are housed at the Great Ape Language Lab where they are meticulously cared for and studied by scientist Isabel Duncan. These apes speak with their own language, can understand human language and communicate through American Sign Language [ASL]. The bonobos are Isabel’s complete career focus and have quickly become her family.

John Thigpen, a reporter, travels to the Language Lab to write a story about Isabel and the bonobos. Soon after there’s a mysterious attack where Isabel is injured and the apes are stolen. Weeks later, the six bonobos appear on a reality television show called Ape House. Media from all over the world travel to the small town to cover this strange show. It’s a Big Brother-type show with 24-hour camera coverage. When the apes prove smarter than the man who concocted this show idea, he wants to get rid of the apes to the highest bidder. This turns out to be a corporation that would conduct horrific, inhumane testing on the apes. Isabel and John work together to unravel the mystery of how the apes were stolen, who has them and how to get them back.

Gruen writes with a full heart and open mind. She endears these bonobos to the readers so that we care about them from the moment we get introduced. Ape House is a fascinating novel.

buy at Amazon:
Ape House: A Novel

Water for Elephants: A Novel

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