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Lucy Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 13, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272607
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #811,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Questions for Laurence Gonzales on Lucy

Q: The premise of Lucy is a daring one. How did you come up with the idea of a girl who is part ape?
A: I was studying petroglyphs in the high desert country of New Mexico around 1994. There is something deliciously spooky and mysterious about that country. As I was walking out there all alone, looking at those eerie pictures that someone had made maybe 1,000 years ago, I had this vision of a girl coming out of the rocks from an ancient time--this beautiful creature emerging into sunlight. It struck me that she was half human and half something else, something very ancient. I was transfixed by her. Something about her appearance made me think that she was a cross between a human and an ape. And I thought: This is really possible now. A world of possibilities opened up.

Once I had fixed on the idea, I couldn’t put it out of my mind. I was working in Hollywood at the time, writing screenplays, so my first attempt to write Lucy was actually a screenplay. But it wasn’t right. It took me the next 14 years to work it out. A few years ago I was talking with Cormac McCarthy and he asked me what I was writing next. I told him that I was writing a novel and he asked why I would want to do that, since there hadn’t been a really good novel written in decades. I nearly quit working on Lucy at that point because it was so discouraging. But in the summer of 2007, my younger daughter, Amelia, was home from college and I told her the premise of the novel. When she heard it, she insisted that I press on. She peppered me with ideas and notes of encouragement until I had completed a first draft. Then I showed it to my wife, Debbie, and my older daughter, Elena, and they both exploded with excitement about Lucy. So I was moved to really go all the way with it.

Q: Why did you decide to focus on bonobos as opposed to another type of ape?
A: Bonobos are no more plausible than chimpanzees as potential candidates for breeding with humans. In fact, my original idea was for a cross between a chimpanzee and a human. But then around 2005, I was doing research for my book Everyday Survival and was looking into the origins of humans. I heard that the largest colony of bonobos in the world was just an hour from my home in Milwaukee. So I went there to meet them. I fell in love with them. They’re sexy and clever, and they have complex language and a matriarchal social structure in which the guys do what the women tell them to do. As they got to know me better, they would come to the wire at the back of the enclosure and put their fingers through the fence, imploring me to touch them. Their hands are beautiful and so very human. There seemed no way to write Lucy without them.

Like Lucy herself, these bonobos are caught between two worlds. They can’t go back to Congo, even if we allowed it. They’re not fit for living in the wild and even if they survived, they’d be killed by bush meat hunters there or by the civil war. And yet it is so sad that they are kept in a cage. I am working to make it possible for people who read Lucy to donate money to improve their living quarters.

Q: In Lucy you tackle many serious moral and ethical issues, but at the center of it all is the question of what it means to be human. Did writing Lucy’s story help you see this question in a different light?
A: Just as science has no fixed definition of what it means to be male or female, it also has no clear way to define what it means to be human, unless we apply a strict genetic definition. And even then it gets murky. Using genetics, you could argue that someone with any genetic mutation is not human, and I don’t think we’re ready to do that. Many scientists argue, for example, that chimpanzees and bonobos should be classified as another variety of our species, Homo sapiens, or that humans should be considered another form of chimpanzee.

My face-to-face contact with bonobos, along with my research into our ancestors--the apes and early humans--made me see that we are essentially apes with all of our ape-like behaviors still intact. The first time I went to meet the bonobos in the Milwaukee Zoo, I walked up to the very thick glass behind which they lived. I looked in on a dozen or so of those individuals who were engaged in various activities--grooming and talking and climbing around. As I stood there, one of them came flying at me from somewhere high above on the end of a long rope and kicked me in the face with all his weight and momentum. If it had not been for the glass, he’d have snapped my neck and killed me. That was such a wonderfully human thing to do--to kill the stranger, as so many of us are still doing. A moment later, he was tenderly kissing another bonobo. Writing Lucy definitely shaped the way I view humans. We are still so close to our roots.

Q: Some of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the novel come from the reactions of certain groups to Lucy once the public learns about her story. Were you drawing parallels to any particular instances of intolerance that we face in society today?
A: The story I told about the bonobo who wanted to kill me illustrates the roots of our intolerance of those who are not like us. It is in our nature to protect our own group and reject other groups. The bulk of the novel was written during the administration of George W. Bush, during which violent intolerance was elevated to the level of a national ideal. Add to that the staggering ignorance, religious fanaticism, and power-mad dishonesty of that group of people, and you get a pretty good idea of what I was aiming for in the novel. I actually went into prisons and met some of the white power fanatics there. You don’t have to look very far to find the kind of people I write about in Lucy.

Q: Is there an underlying message that you hope readers will take away from reading Lucy?
A: Lucy does indeed raise many ethical, moral, and philosophical issues that are useful to think about and debate. One important issue we haven’t touched on yet is the way people think about other animals. Recent scientific study shows us that many animals are extremely intelligent and even self-aware. Some birds, for example, have consciousness that is not unlike our own. Whales and dolphins are very likely just as smart as we are. I hope that people come away from reading Lucy with a greater respect for animals of all sorts and perhaps a greater reluctance to destroy them simply because they don’t understand them. I also think it’s important to point out that I wrote most of this novel between the ages of 59 and 61. Part of what kept me going was that I had had the privilege of knowing Norman Maclean, the author of A River Runs Through It, who didn't start writing until he was in his seventies. I hope that this book serves as an inspiration to others. It’s never too late, so never give up.

But at its heart, Lucy is a coming-of-age novel about a wonderful young girl discovering herself and the world in which she finds herself. Lucy says it herself: All teenagers have feelings like hers. The message is: Lucy is a novel. It’s a story, and as such, it’s meant to make people turn the pages and laugh and cry. If they happen to have deep thoughts along the way, that’s good, too. But if all Lucy does is to make you stay up late reading, then that’s enough for me.

From Publishers Weekly

When anthropologist Jenny Lowe brings Lucy, the teenage daughter of a murdered colleague, back home with her to Chicago from the Congo in Gonzales's glib biological thriller, Jenny puts the girl's behavioral quirks down to unfamiliarity with the world outside the jungle. But when Lucy shows uncommon strength, agility, and sensitivities typical of animals, Jenny is shocked to realize that Lucy is a "humanzee": half human, half bonobo. Lucy soon becomes a magnet for the controversy that has colored debates between creationists and evolutionists for decades, as well as an object of interest to a clandestine military think tank. Gonzales (Everyday Survival) condenses considerable topical discussion of evolution issues into his narrative, but his underdeveloped characters are little more than one-dimensional mouthpieces for the viewpoints they espouse. A tidy, anticlimactic ending fails to do justice to the many controversial points the novel raises. 100,000 first printing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Laurence Gonzales has won numerous awards for his books and essays, including two National Magazine Awards, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

He is the author of the best-seller "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why." The sequel to this book, "Surviving Surival: The Art and Science of Resilience," is now available in paperback. His collection of essays from the University of Arkansas Press is entitled "House of Pain."

His latest book is "Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival," a 360-degree reconstruction of the crash of a fully-loaded jumbo jet. Richard Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," called this book, "Intense, gripping, alive with knowledge and compassion, Flight 232 is a new masterpiece of calamity and courage."

To see a video of the actual crash, visit the web site here:

flight232.com

You can also read excerpts of his books there and see the video trailer for his novel "Lucy" published by Alfred A. Knopf and available from Vintage paperbacks.

You can connect with Laurence on Facebook, here:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Laurence-Gonzales/274938225870097

Praise for Flight 232



Praise for Surviving Survival

"Timely, realistic, and accessible self-help book on the potential of growth from suffering. Recommended"-Antoinette Brinkman, Library Journal

"Excellent... An education for those wishing to be of use in a stressful, often frightening world." - Kirkus Reviews, Best Nonfiction Books of 2012

"Gonzales reveals how recovery can be a transforming experience that not only moves us forward but also enriches our lives in ways we never could have imagined." - More Magazine

Praise for Deep Survival

"I tore through Deep Survival like I'd been waiting to read it my whole life. Gonzales's writing is effortless and compelling, and his research is first-rate. I can't imagine a better book on the topic." -Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

"Far and away the best book on management, leadership and employment I have read this year...Anyone who has ever tried to understand the mind of the entrepreneur should read this book." -Rickard Donkin, Financial Times

"Riveting accounts of avalanches, mountain accidents, sailors lost at sea, and the man-made hell of 9/11." -Stephen Bodio, Sports Illustrated

"This book will help you should you ever find yourself pinned under a rock in a roaring white water river. But it will help you even more if you ever find yourself wondering why your brain works the way it does under the stress of everyday life. A fascinating look into why we are who we are." -Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Enough

"Gonzales has masterfully woven together personal survival stories with the study of human perception to reach rock-bottom truths about how to live with risk." -Peter Stark, author of Last Breath: The Limits of Adventure

"[Gonzales's] science is accurate, accessible, up-to-date and insightful. An extremely good book." -Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

"Deep Survival provides a new lens for looking at survival, risk taking, and life itself. Gonzales takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride that ends with rules of survival we can all stand to learn. Equally important, he answers the question: what is the value of taking risks? I love this book." -Jed Williamson, editor of Accidents in North American Mountaineering

"A fascinating, fast paced, and exciting adventure into survival, (including an excellent survey of the brain basis of fear)." -Joseph LeDoux, professor of neural science at New York University and author of The Emotional Brain and Synaptic Self

"Remarkable, unique, and compulsively readable." -David Roberts, author of Escape from Lucania: An Epic Story of Survival

"Deep Survival is by far the best book on the many insights into epic survival stories I have ever read." -Daryl Miller, chief of mountaineering, Denali National Park & Preserve

"Unique among survival books...stunning...enthralling. Deep Survival makes compelling, and chilling, reading." -Penelope Purdy, Denver Post

Praise for Everyday Survival

"Well-written and fascinating...this is the kind of book you want everyone to read." -Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Part scientific exploration, part poetic meditation, Everyday Survival is a book for everyone who cares about where we have come from, and where we may be going." -Bill Miller, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Institute

"The evidence Gonzales, a natural storyteller, cites is riveting...Each story is tightly told and convincingly deconstructed." -Santa Fe New Mexican

"Mixing psychology, sociology, and anthropology, Everyday Survival provides clear, cautionary lessons on the dangers of the world we live in." -Sacramento Book Review

"A plea for heightened awareness of our surroundings, and good reading for the how-things-work set." -Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Lucy

"[Gonzales has] Crichton's gift for page-turning storytelling, but also a vivid, literary-grade prose style, and a knack for getting inside his characters' heads." --Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A

"Gonzales's Lucy is an improbably delightful young lady. . . . Lucy pulls the reader in because of the sweet girl at its center, but the novel also makes one think about what it means to be human, and how love can be a bridge to understanding and acceptance." --BookPage

"Compelling. . . . Outstanding. . . . [Lucy] is beach reading with bite." --Chicago Tribune

"Timely and provocative. . . . Gonzales injects [his dialogue] with doses of frivolity, wit, and a youthful insight at once frightfully innocent and calculatingly wise to the power of media and technology." --The Boston Globe

"[A] coming-of-age-except-I'm-also-part-bonobo biotech thriller. . . . This is an enjoyable ride that makes you think about what it means to be human." --Outside

"The clever ending Mr. Gonzales has come up with for Lucy marks a complete departure from the Frankenstein template, and it's oddly satisfying on an emotional level." --The New York Times

"Lucy is more than a high-school drama, a fish-out-of-water novel about how a hybrid girl tries to fit in at a suburban Chicago high school. . . . This Lucy is an action-packed politically charged thriller that puts evolution forth as an unassailable fact, and raises ethical and moral questions about biotechnical science, government power and the morality of leadership." --Chicago Tribune

"Laurence Gonzales presents us with a captivating lead character. . . . Part science thriller, part tender novel, Lucy is written with a full awareness of the evil people are capable of. Gonzales, like Mary Shelley before him, shows us on the brink of a terrible knowledge." --The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

"Harks back to the science fiction of the mid-20th century. . . . Lucy [is] a likeable and thoroughly intriguing character with a unique perspective. . . . Reveals a generous spirit and a flair for suspense." --The Columbus Dispatch

"Love and loss are at the core of this unusual story that analyzes life, relationships and issues of evolution." --Woman's Day

"Gonzales excels at creating universal moments." --The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

"Shrewd social critique. . . . Gonzales raises profound questions about identity, family, animal and human rights, and genetic engineering without compromising the ever-escalating suspense. Lucy is irresistible, her predicament wrenching, and Gonzales's imaginative, sweet-natured, hard-charging, and deeply inquisitive thriller will be a catalyst for serious thought and debate." --Booklist

"A riveting, moving and informative survival story." --San Antonio Express-News

"Lucy is much more than an 'ape' and this novel is much more than just a summer beach book." --Curled Up With A Good Book

"Gonzales does a great job of keeping the action moving at a fast pace. . . . Gonzales comes back to the question of what it means to be human again and again. . . . Reading Lucy is an interesting way to confront this question and find your own answer." --The Advocate

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Customer Reviews

The characters in the story were flat and seemed only to be developed to serve the author's personal agenda.
rocky49152
The discussion of ethics centers on whether Lucy should be considered human or not, assuming that if she is human, she should be treated well.
Helen Feddema
Other times it was paced so slowly that it seemed like we were spending too long in the scene, examining too many details.
nws2002

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With an intriguing premise and an action-packed beginning, Laurence Gonzales's "Lucy" got my adrenaline pumping and my hopes set high. In a high-concept "what-if" tease, "Lucy" introduces a young girl raised in the wild by a scientist studying bonobo apes. After calamity strikes her home in the Congo, another primatologist brings Lucy (in case the title wasn't a give-away) home and the two forge a tentative mother/daughter bond. All is not as it seems, however, when it is discovered that Lucy was born of the union between man and bonobo--and is, in fact, a scientific marvel (or atrocity, depending on your viewpoint).

There are many different directions that Gonzales might have taken "Lucy." To name a few: A fish out of water tale as Lucy adjusts to "civilized" society, a sociological examination of how people might react to a new and engineered species, an ethical and/or religious discussion about science being pushed too far, or a techno-thriller in the vein of Michael Crichton. Indeed, all of these aspects are present in "Lucy"--but, for all its good intentions, the novel never really gels these different components effectively. While I did find the chapters dealing with Lucy's adjustment into a new family pleasant--it is by far the most successful element of the book. So, in a minor and surprisingly human way, much of the story does work. However, once we look at the broader picture with menacing governmental agencies and maniacal religious zealots--the tale goes seriously awry.

There is a real lack of subtlety in the remainder of "Lucy." Heroes and villains are drawn in big strokes with little moral ambiguity.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Helen Feddema VINE VOICE on June 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A book of this type - featuring a girl who is a blend of human and Bonobo genes - should have great science, interesting characters, and deep discussion of ethical issues. This book fails on all counts. The science is sketchy - just a vague discussion of genetic engineering used to create the hybrid Lucy, with no explanation of how this research could be carried out in a hut in the Congolese jungle, with only intermittent electricity from an unreliable generator. The characters (with one exception, who dies in the very beginning of the book), are either all good or all bad, which makes them unbelievable and uninteresting. The discussion of ethics centers on whether Lucy should be considered human or not, assuming that if she is human, she should be treated well. Little or no consideration is given to the issue of whether animals (with no human genes) should be treated badly. All in all, despite the interesting theme, this is a disappointing book.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By nws2002 VINE VOICE on June 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Short story recap. Scientist in the Congo creates a human-bonobo hybrid called Lucy, he becomes the girl;s father. After the father dies another scientist finds her in the jungle and takes her home, thinking she's a normal human teenager. Lots of complications prevail.

It was a great story, but at points it just felt rushed, so much that I dropped the timeline and was surprised at how little time had actually elapsed in the story. Other times it was paced so slowly that it seemed like we were spending too long in the scene, examining too many details.

Most of the main characters, especially Lucy, are well developed and you begin to feel like you know them and root for them. There are a few though that generally remain in the background, and those tend to be less developed and their actions will surprise you in the wrong way.

Overall it was an intriguing read, with good scientific background. Reminds me of Michael Crichton because some parts get lost in the science.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By DannyG on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is absolutely terrible. I could not recommend it less, unless you're looking for a good laugh.

I don't even know where to begin. First of all, Laurence Gonzales has no concept of subtlety. Rather than gradually showing the reader that Jenny is lonely and never achieved the family she originally wanted, he simply writes, "Jenny had always wanted children." Wow! Writing is so easy! On a similar note, there are never any gray areas as far as characters are concerned. Everyone is either a Good Guy or a Bad Guy, with no room between the two. Every time Lucy and Jenny met a new character, I was initially suspicious of their motives, especially if they were being much too helpful (such as offering up their private jets for Lucy's convenience), until I realized what stupid book I was reading and that everyone is exactly the way they appear on the surface.

Oh, and let's not forget about "The Stream," an unspoken form of communication that all animals share, or something? I don't know, it's basically like something from a Disney movie. Take, for instance, the following excerpt: "The crickets collect their memories and sing about them. They talk so much because they have so much to say. Some birds do that, too, and Lucy liked to sit out in the morning and listen to them reminisce about THE DAYS OF THE DINOSAURS." (Emphasis mine. Terrible writing Gonzales's.)

Probably the most obnoxious portions of the novel occur when Lucy is attempting to assimilate with her classmates. This is where Gonzales's inability to relate to his characters really shines through. How old is Laurence Gonzales? 150 years old?
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