Saturday, September 25, 2010

122 - Ape House; Sara Gruen



















Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants was a favorite book of mine, so when I heard about her new book, Ape House, I couldn't wait to read it. The verdict.....it's good, but not as good as Water for Elephants.

In this story Isabel Duncan is a scientist who has been working with Bonobo apes at at The Great Ape Language Lab in Kansas for many years. The apes: Bonzi, Sam, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani and Makena are language masters in the art of signing, and they also understand when humans speak to them. In addition to being intelligent creatures, they are compassionate feeling creatures, and this shows through over and over with their interactions with each other. Bonobos and humans even share 98.7% of their DNA. They are very playful, affectionate, and yes,  fond of sex.

John Thigpen is a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, sent to cover a story about the apes, but when the language lab is bombed by a group of extremists bent on setting the apes free, all hell breaks loose --so to speak.  Isabelis severely injured in the bombing, but recovers, and John stays involved trying to recover the apes that have been set free, and to get to the bottom of the incident. Now this is where the story gets weird: the apes end up on a reality television show called Ape House in a remote area of New Mexico. A variety of subplots and a motley crew of characters are introduced to the reader: a pornography kingpin, Russian strippers, meth-lab members and their pit bull "Booger",  John's depressed wife Amanda, computer hackers, and more.

Despite all of the quirky characters Gruen introduces into this story, I never lost interest. As far out as the plot may sound, it all comes back to the sensitive, intelligent apes, and poignant moments written into the novel about them, that makes reading this novel all worthwhile.  Prospective readers should be aware that there are some disturbing parts regarding the endangered bonobo apes. However, the author's love for animals, in this well researched story, shines through over and over again. RECOMMENDED

Rating - 4/5 Stars
(review copy and Library audio book)

27 comments:

  1. Diane, I was wondering how this long awaited book was going to be. My husband read Water for Elephants and everyone seemed to be waiting and waiting for this book. Thanks for the review!

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  2. I want to read this one badly! I almost bought it at Target today but I couldn't justify spending $18. Sad, I know, because I am sure I will love it!

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  3. It is evident that Sara Gruen loves animals. I never got to read Water for Elephants but i know the movie will be out soon and i cannot wait to see it. I am not sure if Ape House is for me though. Thanks for sharing this.

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  4. Apes, a reality show, strippers, a porn kingpin, computer hackers, and a meth lab? And this is a coherent story? Whoa.

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  5. Oh I must read this! I've loved monkeys since I was a child. I didn't carry around a doll, I carried around a stuffed gorilla animal.. it was Koko, the gorilla who does sign language! I love her.

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  6. I love Water for Elephants so much. Hope that I'll get to read Ape House soon. Thanks for the honest review. =)

    this is my review on Water for Elephants which I just finished reading. Enjoy!!

    http://coffeecrackers.blogspot.com/2010/09/water-for-elephants-by-sara-gruen.html

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  7. I haven't read Water for Elephants, but now I really want to. This sounds good, too. Great review!

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  8. I will definitely read this. Thanks for the great review. I tend to always read with lower expectations when I read a second book from the same author!

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  9. Glad you liked it. I just checked it out today - I tried to resist but after seeing it on the shelf at the library the last few times I was there, I decided it was meant for me if no one else was going to check it out!

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  10. I have to say, this does sounds a little odd with the Apes on a reality show! But I like that it's original and interesting. I really like Water for Elephants, it was a terrific book for many reasons. But the abuse of the elephant really troubled me. I hated those sections though I know they had to be in the story.

    Are the Apes or any other animals neglected/abused in this book?
    ~ Amy

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  11. I only skimmed your review as I loved Water for Elephants and have been looking forward to Ape House. It would be so hard to create something better...I'll have to read it and compare myself.

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  12. I've got this audio book on hold at the library and I'm looking forward to listening to it. I'm glad you thought it was good.

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  13. Thank you for this review. I want to first read Water for Elephants myself.

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  14. I want to read this one, I did like Water for Elephants but the subject matter in this one interests me.

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  15. I know I'll read this at some point - I read and enjoyed her previous three novels (the first two involve horses). Nice review, Diane.

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  16. I'm not surprised that this book isn't as good as Water for Elephants - not much could top it!I look forward to reading Ape House when it is released in the UK.

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  17. It sounds like Gruen has weathered the sophomore curse.

    "Apes, a reality show, strippers, a porn kingpin, computer hackers, and a meth lab" - count me in!

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  18. A 4 is still good. I can't wait to read this one. I adored Water for Elephants and it truly touched me. Excellent review of this one.

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  19. I couldn't wait to read this book either! I waited all day at BEA to get a copy signed too! I did enjoy it, but not as much as Water for Elephants. And then I think, "hey, that's not really fair" because Water for Elephants is just a different kind of book. But isn't that always the way with an authors next book, especially if you really enjoyed it!

    Great review!

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  20. I so want to read this one. Her Water for Elephants totally surprised me, so I'm sure this one will too!

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  21. I've been dying to read this ever since I heard about it on a recent podcast because I liked Water for Elephants, plus the plot sounds fascinating. Did you read Congo by Michael Crichton? It's also about intelligent apes (one of the main characters is an ape who knows sign language) - my favorite Chrichton novel.

    Thanks for the review!

    Sue

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  22. I really want to read Water for Elephants. The story does sound a bit not-my-type, but I would still give it a try!

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  23. This one has definitely not seen the rave reviews that Water for Elephants did. I still need to read that one and will read it first since everyone seems to agree it is the better of the two.

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  24. This does sound far out! But a talented writer can pull off almost anything.

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  25. It sounds really, really good! I already have Water for Elephants so I guess I'll start with that one, but this one sounds like something I would enjoy too. Thanks for the great review!

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  26. I am your newest follower and I am so glad I found you because, even though I am a professional pet sitter, I still find time to read and to find all of your book recommendations is a feast for the eyes.
    I did read Water For Elephants and it was excellent and a true page turner. I did not know the author published another book and if you recommend it, I'm reading it!
    Speaking of great books...have you ever read NEVER LET ME GO or OLIVE KITTERIDGE or JESUS LAND? All 3 are excellent, in my opinion!

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  27. Can't wait to read this one,after reading Water for Elephants.

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