Mon 6 Jul 2015
Anyone who enjoyed Water for Elephants will be sure to enjoy Ape House a Novel. Once again, author Sara Gruen has taken us inside the minds and lives of a species of wild animals. This time, its the bonobos, a great ape found in nature only in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. The bonobos are facing extinction due to human predators.
These highly intelligent animals share 98% of human DNA. They communicate complex messages to one another using their own vocalizations, and can be taught to communicate with humans through American Sign Language.
In Ape House, scientist Isabel Duncan oversees six bonobos at Great Ape Language Lab. An animal lover, Isabel considers the bonobos to be her family and interacts with them at a personal level. Tragedy strikes when a militant and highly misinformed animal rights group bombs the lab, seriously injuring Isabel and setting the animals free to roam the streets of a busy city.
As the plot progresses, we follow Isabel in her effort to heal from her own injuries and to first locate, and then rescue her bonobos. Shockingly, she discovers that a pornographer-turned-television-producer has bought the apes and is starring them in a reality TV show. Since bonobos are highly sexually active and one of the few species that practices recreational sex, this show is popular with a certain segment of the population. Although the animals are treated considerably better than if they were in a scientific research laboratory, their living conditions are far from ideal.
John Thigpen, an investigative journalist takes an interest in the situation and joins forces with Isabel and her assistant to solve the mystery of the bombing, and ultimately to rescue the bonobos.
I found this book immensely interesting. Previously, I had not heard of bonobos. I now have a deep appreciation for these intelligent and sensitive animals.
If there is a down side to this novel, I can’t think of what it is. I have read some of the negative reviews on Amazon. Perhaps those reviewers are more insightful than I am — but I thought the book was great.