Ape House [Book Review]

Title: Ape House
Author: Sara Gruen
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 0385523211
Pages: 320
Year: 2010
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Source: Review Copy from BEA
Rating: 3.5/5

Summary:

John Thigpen, a reporter out of Philadelphia, is writing a story on a language lab where Isabel Duncan is teaching bonobos to communicate with people using American Sign Language. Shortly after John’s visit to the lab, the lab is bombed, the bonobos are “liberated,” and Isabel is injured in the explosion.

The story follows the apes after they are sold, Isabel’s attempts to get them back, and John’s attempts to save his career and his marriage.

My Thoughts:

I’m torn on what I thought about Ape House. Did I love it as a novel? Not really. Did I love the subject matter? Absolutely.

See, I love chimpanzees (bonobos are technically chimpanzees though not what we commonly think of as chimpanzees). When asked what my dream job is, 7 out of 10 times, I’ll probably say that it would be teaching chimpanzees how to talk. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the proper qualifications.

So the parts of the story that focused on the bonobos and showed their incredible ability to communicate with humans were great. Seeing their amazing ability to understand human speech and react to it was simply fascinating. Gruen did a wonderful job developing the apes’ characters and personalities.

But when it came to the humans, I thought the story fell a little flat. I didn’t really care much about John and Amanda’s relationship. I cared a little more about Isabel, but ultimately, when the story focused on people, I was a little bored. I read those sections just waiting to get back to the apes.

I was glad that this novel drew some attention to the horrors of animal testing. Because it goes on behind close doors, it is easy for people not to pay attention to these poor animals. Anything that brings it out in the open has to be good for the animal rights cause. (Is it inappropriate to urge you to use cruelty-free products at this point? Please think about where your mascara and dish soap come from.)

I expected more from Gruen’s follow up to the beloved Water for Elephants. I really wanted to love this book. The subject matter and the author drew me to it. I think there are others out there that did love it, and I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks. Perhaps someone can convince me that I do love it afterall.

Buy It Now: Amazon; IndieBound; Powell’s; Book Depository

Teaser Tuesday 8.31.10 -Ape House

“Isabel grasped the phone with both hands, her breath coming in short burts.
Her heart was racing so fast she thought she might faint.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and rocked back and forth.

“I’m listening,’ she said.”

– p. 121* of Ape House by Sara Gruen –

teasertuesdays31

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

*Page numbers refer to the ARC and may differ in the final version.

Teaser Tuesday 8.17.10 – Ape House

“The picture froze. John stared at the final image for several seconds before realizing he was gaping.”

– p. 62* of Ape House by Sara Gruen –

teasertuesdays31

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

*Page numbers refer to the ARC and may differ in the final version.

The 3 BEA Books I’m Most Excited to Read

After wandering the floor for a few hours, Emily, Ben and I walked by the Norton booth and saw that Nicole Krauss had a new book coming out: Great House. The three of us adored The History of Love so we were psyched just to have that knowledge. Then I spotted copies of the book. They weren’t really out for grabs but Emily went in search of a Norton rep and snagged us some copies.

Later that day we were (again) wandering and we stumbled upon a line of  people and overheard the words “Sara Gruen.” The three of us also adored Water for Elephants so we went in search of the back of the line. We got to meet Sara Gruen and get copies of her new book, Ape House.

And finally, we saw that Justin Cronin was signing at 4pm. I know The Passage comes out on Tuesday and I wouldn’t have long to wait to buy it, but I’ve been jealously watching everyone else read this so meeting him and getting a copy of  his book was a nice surprise (I thought I had already missed him).

I have more to say about BEA itself, but I wanted to share the books I’m most anxious to read and review. Which one should I read first?