Ape House: Book summary and reviews of Ape House by Sara Gruen

Ape House

A Novel

By Sara Gruen

Ape House
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2010,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn't understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she's ever felt among humans ... until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what's really going on inside.

When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and "liberating" the apes, John's human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he'll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.

Ape House delivers great entertainment, but it also opens the animal world to us in ways few novels have done, securing Sara Gruen's place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Gruen’s astute, wildly entertaining tale of interspecies connection is a novel of verve and conscience." - Booklist

"Although the book is somewhat flawed by an abundance of stock characters, Gruen's achievement is nevertheless significant not only in illuminating the darkest corners of animal research but also in showing the depth of human-animal relationships." - Library Journal

"In Elephants, Gruen used the human-animal connection to conjure bigger themes; this is essentially an overblown story about people and animals, with explosions added for effect." - Publishers Weekly

"The factual information Gruen presents about bonobos and their language acquisition is compelling; unfortunately, the humans, who get far more page space, are a drag." - Kirkus

"Sara Gruen knows things—she knows them in her mind and in her heart. And, out of what she knows, she has created a true thriller that is addictive from its opening sentence. Devour it to find out what happens next, but also to learn remarkable and moving things about life on this planet. Very, very few novels can change the way you look at the world around you. This one does." - Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife

"I read Ape House in one joyous breath. Ever an advocate for animals, Gruen brings them to life with the passion of a novelist and the accuracy of a scientist. She has already done more for bonobos than I could do in a lifetime. The novel is immaculately researched and lovingly crafted. If people fall in love with our forgotten, fascinating, endangered relative, it will be because of Ape House." - Vanessa Woods, author of Bonobo Handshake

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by ena
A fresh topic.
This book about Bonobos (apes) is an exciting learning experience, fresh & fun!
The author Sara Gruen of water for Elephants has done it again...written about a topic related to animals ( which she studied in depth before tackling this unusual topic) which is informative in a very amusing way and spellbinding way.
Part of this book also consists of a mystery but all in sync with the story.
I had a very hard time putting this book down , finished it in a very short time!

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by avid
a disappointment
Trite, implausible, and hugely disappointing. I loved Water for Elephants, which was rich and imaginative, moving and wise. Ape House contains only a thread of value in its attention to the animals and their use of American Sign Language to communicate with each other and with humans. Beyond that, the characters lack consistency and warmth, and the plot fails in its overused themes and endless coincidences. Please. I suspect that Ape House was published solely on the strength of Elephants, as it seems unlikely that such drivel would otherwise have been printed.

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Author Information

Sara Gruen Author Biography

Sara Gruen, the author of Ape House and Water for Elephants, moved to the United States from Canada in 1999 for a job as a technical writer. She was laid off in 2001 and decided to pursue a lifelong dream of writing fiction. She has published three novels, each involving animals as full-fledged characters; the first two, Riding Lessons and Flying Changes, about horses, were published as mass market originals. Gruen lives in North Carolina with her husband, three sons, and a menagerie of rescued animals. She donates a portion of her earnings from all of her books to various animal charities.

Link to Sara Gruen's Website

Name Pronunciation
Sara Gruen: SAIR-rah GRU-en

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