Friday, May 09, 2014

Book Review: Ape House

Can I be honest about something? I read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and loved it. I remember loving it. I don't remember what it was about, really. Oops. But, I knew when I was wandering around Page One in Sanlitun in Beijing {my once-every-two-months bookstore trip, y'all} that I needed to read Ape House. 

{Source: Goodreads}

The story starts with a married reporter named John Thigpen who is writing a story about the residents of the Great Ape Language Lab. There, he meets Isabel Duncan, one of the research scientists at the lab along with Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani and Makena. These 6 are bonobos, a highly intelligent species of Great Apes capable of intimate relationships and communicating via Sign Language.

After his return home, the lab is bombed, the bonobos are sold, and we follow John and Isabel as they not only work to locate and rescue them, but also to handle the myriad of issues in their personal lives.

The thing I loved about this novel was anything to do with bonobos. I find it simultaneously fascinating and horrifying that we have such intelligent creatures on this planet and that we treat them so poorly. I like Gruen's depiction of this particular research facility and the in-depth ways that she created the bonobos with personality.

However, I could have done without all the side drama such as: reporter job drama, and my-wife-is-moving-to-LA-and-getting-a-boob-job drama, etc. Yes, some of these side stories added to the bonobo plot line, but frankly, there was enough to follow with the potential terrorist angle, the bonobos being watched on a porn channel drama and I-have-a-skeazeball-boyfriend drama. The other little side tidbits could have been integrated a little bit better to make it less noticeable.

Overall, I did enjoy this novel. It was quick, well-paced and easy-to-read. It could use some work on making the plot a little more seamless, but in general it was a solid read. Out of 5 stars, I give it 3.5.

What have you been reading lately?


  1. I loved Water for Elephants too! To recap, it alternates between the past and the present. The present is an elderly man in a retirement home reminiscing about his days working in the circus. I actually only remember a few of the circus details myself...

    Anyway, I need to do a better job of keeping up with authors and their other works. This sounds like another intriguing read!

  2. I've heard mixed things about this one. Although I did LOVE Water for Elephants, and in theory want to read this one as well, but from everything I've heard it isn't nearly as good. Maybe eventually I'll pick it up though...

  3. I'd be interested in reading this since I've read Water for Elephants. Thanks for the suggestion!