From School Library Journal
While visiting a primate sanctuary for a story on captive chimpanzees, Siebert (Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral
) encounters Roger, a chimpanzee formerly used in the entertainment industry, who seems to remember him. In one transformative night, Siebert sits up until dawn with Roger, repairing their apparently severed bond, pondering the meaning of humanity's relationship to nonhuman animals, and recounting some of the ugly history of exotic animals killed, captured, bred, and abused by humans in the name of entertainment and research. While Roger seems to find healing in the interaction, the human finds metaphysical escape. Seeing in Roger reflections of himself, Siebert concludes that a self-centered humanity may stop abusing nonhumans if we perceive them to be part of ourselves. While his musings occasionally come across as self-absorbed, Siebert's writing is fresh and evocative, and his sensitive and sustained attention to Roger is moving. Given the popularity of human/animal friendship stories, this book will likely be of interest to readers in both public and academic libraries.—Leslie J. Patterson, Chicago P.L.
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While writing a story about chimps for the New York Times Magazine, Siebert was visiting sanctuaries established for former ape actors and research animals when he came to a facility in Wauchula, Florida. As soon as chimpanzee Roger saw him, he stood up and gave three loud, slow claps, causing the caregivers to comment on the immediate recognition. Siebert asked to stay and visit with Roger, wondering at this connection with an animal he’d never met, and the result is this elegiac meditation on the bond between human and ape, centered on one night that the author spent with Roger as he and the chimp sit and commune through looks and body language. This leads the author delving into our treatment of nonhuman animals and finding the connection that he and Roger both sought. --Nancy Bent