34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Challenging and Rewarding,
This review is from: The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A True Story of Resilience and Recovery (Hardcover)
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I've struggled a bit with how to write this review. This book by a writer who lived and assisted at the title sanctuary for a couple months turned out to not be what I expected, and although it's actually a much better book because of that fact, I can't help selfishly being a tiny bit disappointed because of it as well.
So let's make it clear from the start that this is not just a happy book overflowing with cheery stories about animals like many sanctuary books are, and as you might think from the subtitle. There are some moments like that, but this book is much more serious with as many heartbreaking moments as happy ones.
But a book which begins with the line, "Smell my phone" has plenty of humor as well. Some of this is provided by other animals at the sanctuary, but it's also found in attempts to outsmart the chimps. And there are inspiring stories such as one chimp who after observing a human treating another chimp's injury, takes over and provides future treatments himself.
The book describes the chimps' lives in labs as well as at the sanctuary, and tells the powerful story of how the sanctuary came to exist and how the chimps got there. It follows the author's experiences there and his process of trying to be accepted by the chimps, as well as the stories of the other people working there. We learn the individual stories of the chimps and how they've been affected by their pasts.
The book also includes some wonderful photographic portraits of the chimps. That's Pepper on the cover, who came to the sanctuary by luck, not by original intention--she was destined for many more years of experiments. When a man who worked at the lab where she was held visits the sanctuary, she races up to him and pushes her lips through the dividing cage until he kisses her. He's stunned and shaken by what he considers undeserved forgiveness. It doesn't turn out as well for all visitors though; another man is slapped by a chimp who had been in his lab.
As one of the book's epigraphs states, "Resilience is more than resistance, it's also learning to live" and that is what these chimps are still working on every day. Recovery by a primate much like ourselves from years of abuse called medical research does not come easy any more than it does for abused children. Although the chimps are obviously much better off now and have some choices in their lives they never had before, the years of isolation in tiny cages, injections, infections, knockout darts, and liver punches didn't magically leave their memories when they reached the sanctuary. The book is about their challenges and the challenges, rewards, and pain of those people devoting their lives to helping and loving them.
The United States is the last major country still doing invasive research on chimps, so the book is also a call for passage of the Great Ape Protection Act which is slowly gaining sponsors in Congress. Readers are encouraged to contact their congresspeople and to donate to chimp sanctuaries. A portion of the author's royalties will be given to Fauna Sanctuary.