Sunday, March 13, 2011

SOLSC Day 13: Book Review

I loved Sara Gruen's novel Water for Elephants. If you haven't read it, you should! It's a remarkable story about circus life, love and of course there's a beautiful message about remembering our stories and being sure to tell them before it's too late.

That's not my point. The book I'm actually going to review is Gruen's newer novel, Ape House. When I saw there was another title by Gruen at my local Barnes and Noble, I found myself coveting it. Finally, in my box of books before the one I blogged about earlier this week, it arrived. I gave myself time at night to read, and then this weekend I was determined to finish it.

Ape House is about a research lab that is populated by bonobos. Their research coordinator, but more like mother, Isabel is tragically injured after someone bombed the research facility. What unravels from there is a story about who committed the crime, among other things. It seems to me, though, that there are two separate yet connected arcs within the text. The first, of course, being about the bombing, Isabel, and the fate of the bonobos (who are kidnapped...or apenapped?) who suddenly appear as a reality television program. The other arc tells the story of John Thigpen, a struggling reporter whose marriage is on the rocks, his job reduced to tabloid writing and his self esteem in the toilet. John ultimately blows open the truth of the bombing, the bonobos and the whodunit element.

What captivates me about the story is how compelling Gruen makes the bonobos. There are 6 of them; each has a name, a backstory, a real connection. I fell in love with these bonobos. I wanted to sob when I thought they were hurt in the bombing and I was elated at their fate once the story started to close.

I don't want to give too much away, but I can strongly say that readers will fall in love with the bonobos, will hurt for Isabel and will cheer John on as he works for his marriage, his career and his life. Go read this book!!

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