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Captivity Hardcover – February 15, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Wesselmann, Debbie Lee. Captivity. Blair. Feb. 2008. c.300p. ISBN 978-0-89587-353-8. $22.95.
Primatologist Dana Armstrong is passionate about making a difference in the lives of the animals living at a South Carolina chimpanzee sanctuary. But a break-in resulting in the escape of numerous chimpanzees forces Dana to not only determine who was responsible for the vandalism but also deal with her traumatic memories of the past for Dana is a survivor of a psychological experiment, raised as a child with a chimp named Annie. She now faces opposition from the local community, political pressure from her university, and a ghost from her past who is bent upon her destruction. To further complicate matters, Dana's seldom-seen rogue brother appears on her doorstep, and a handsome journalist tugs at her heartstrings. Novelist Wesselmann (Trutor and the Balloonist; The Earth and the Sky) has once again combined a riveting plot with exciting characters to hold you spellbound until the last page. This novel, which raises many ethical and moral considerations, is most timely. On October 30, 2007, a chimpanzee named Washoe died at the age of 42. He was the first nonhuman known to communicate in a human language. [For your reading group, you might want to pair this with Elizabeth Hess's nonfiction Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human. Ed.] Melody Ballard, Pima Cty. P.L., Tucson, AZ --Library Journal (starred)
Top Customer Reviews
Essentially, the book is about the scientist, Dr. Dana Armstrong, Director of the South Carolina Primate Project and her attempts to keep afloat the sanctuary which serves as home to chimpanzees who have been discarded after being involuntary participants in scientific experiments at labs or residents at zoos which have closed. The major problem she is facing is how to convince the University president and a major donor that her facility is a safe place for the animals and is not a threat to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there was a break-in at the sanctuary and the animals were freed because someone obtained a key and simply opened up the cages, letting the animals roam about the offices, sanctuary and beyond, into the nearby family neighborhood.
Dana, Andy, the vet for the animals, Mary one of the research associates and graduate students helped round up the missing animals - all except one - the most dangerous, named Benji.Read more ›
The basics of the story have been outlined well by other reviewers so I won't recap those. What I will say is that the book is one to be savored because the themes the author offers us are worthy of careful consideration. As I savored this book, I realized that it's not just about the "captivity" of the primates... or, rather, it IS about the captivity of ALL of the primates, including the human ones. And the careful reader will be fascinated by how each handles their "imprisonment" and if or how each escapes.
And, in the meantime, reading about ape behavior is fascinating and great fun. And you may also enjoy the irony of learning about how university boards and funding committees can behave.
Good book. I recommend it.
In this moving novel, Ms Wesselmann gives life to an engaging cast of characters, include chimpanzees and their carers as well as activists, academics and villains. In confronting her past, Dana also learns to face a different future. This story is both heart warming and heart wrenching. It invites readers to think beyond the fiction. Deftly written, without extraneous verbiage, Ms Wesselmann writes a powerful novel where not everything is as it seems. Family secrets, power struggles, romance are issues in the human and chimpanzee worlds as well. I finished this novel some days ago but will continue to think about the messages and their ramifications for some time to come. And that, for me, is usually the difference between a 4 and 5 star novel.
The South Carolina Primate Project is one such institution. Their primate residents are refugees from medical labs and roadside zoos. The chimps come from a wide variety of different backgrounds--some were born and bred in captivity, some captured in the wild. Some are loving and gentle, and others like "Benji" have been so brutally treated, they require sedation for a human to even treat a wound.
Dr. Dana Armstrong presides over this precariously funded project. She's a natural for the job, since her family was one of the first to have a chimp member. Her psychologist father, Dr. Reginald Armstrong, was one of the University of Oklahoma professors who adopted a chimpanzee and took the primate in as a family member. The Armstrong family's interactions with Annie were videotaped and shown all over the world. To this day, the Armstrong children are still haunted by their 'sister' and wonder what happened to Annie when the funding for their project ran out.
"Captivity" opens with a crisis at the sanctuary. Someone's broken in and set the chimps free. Benji, one of the HIV-positive chimps is loose. He's their most dangerous resident, having suffered serious abuse from a prior roadside zoo owner. Even the familiar handlers approach Benji with extreme care. If he bites or harms someone from nearby Harris, SC, it's conceivable he could infect them with HIV.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I liked it, but it was no "Water For Elephants," as I had hoped it would be for the plight of research chimpanzees.Published 5 months ago by sam933
Debbie Wesselmann is an exceptional writer. In my opinion, it is unfortunate that she hasn't gotten more recognition in the publishing world for her writing skill and... Read morePublished on August 23, 2013 by Tell Me A Story
This is a Great book for all to read. The delivery was fast and the price was great for such a large book.Published on August 12, 2013 by B. Tomko
I enjoyed this book, it is NOT heavy reading. I had just read Sarah Gruens' Ape House and found this one in the reviews of her book.
So I read them both. Read more
What a great portrait of two siblings, four years apart in age, and how they deal with a family blessing of two years growing up with a chimp for a sister, or so they believed, and... Read morePublished on April 20, 2011 by Constance Michener
Dana Armstrong is the director of a chimpanzee sanctuary in South Carolina. The animals she and her under-funded staff tend to are primarily discards from experiments and research. Read morePublished on September 7, 2009 by Martin A Hogan
Debbie Lee Wesselmann has captured something very special with this book. She captured the tensions between early primate research and current understanding, between activism as an... Read morePublished on August 9, 2009 by Dawn Forsythe
I very rarely read fiction although I have a pile of such books that I intend to read someday, most of them bought very cheaply. Read morePublished on March 29, 2009 by Peter Durward Harris
One of the best books I've read in a very long time. True to the blurb on the dust jacket, this book kept me up late at night turning page after page. Read morePublished on December 4, 2008 by T. Orr