- Explore more great deals on thousands of titles in our Deals in Books store.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Ape House: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 7, 2010
|New from||Used from|
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
Sara Gruen on Ape House
Right before I went on tour for Water for Elephants, my mother sent me an email about a place in Des Moines, Iowa, that was studying language acquisition and cognition in great apes. I had been fascinated by human-ape discourse ever since I first heard about Koko the gorilla (which was longer ago than I care to admit) so I spent close to a day poking around the Great Ape Trust’s Web site. I was doubly fascinated--not only with the work they’re doing, but also by the fact that there was an entire species of great ape I had never heard of. Although I had no idea what I was getting into, I was hooked.
During the course of my research for Ape House, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Great Ape Trust--not that that didn’t take some doing. I was assigned masses of homework, including a trip to York University in Toronto for a crash course on linguistics. Even after I received the coveted invitation to the Trust, that didn’t necessarily mean I was going to get to meet the apes: that part was up to them. Like John, I tried to stack my odds by getting backpacks and filling them with everything I thought an ape might find fun or tasty--bouncy balls, fleece blankets, M&M’s, xylophones, Mr. Potato Heads, etc.--and then emailed the scientists, asking them to please let the apes know I was bringing “surprises.” At the end of my orientation with the humans, I asked, with some trepidation, whether the apes were going to let me come in. The response was that not only were they letting me come in, they were insisting.
The experience was astonishing--to this day I cannot think about it without getting goose bumps. You cannot have a two-way conversation with a great ape, or even just look one straight in the eye, close up, without coming away changed. I stayed until the end of the day, when I practically had to be dragged out, because I was having so much fun. I was told that the next day Panbanisha said to one of the scientists, “Where’s Sara? Build her nest. When’s she coming back?”
Most of the conversations between the bonobos and humans in Ape House are based on actual conversations with great apes, including Koko, Washoe, Booey, Kanzi, and Panbanisha. Many of the ape-based scenes in this book are also based on fact, although I have taken the fiction writer’s liberty of fudging names, dates, and places.
One of the places I did not disguise or rename is the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They take in orphaned infants, nurse them back to health, and when they’re ready, release them back into the jungle. This, combined with ongoing education of the local people, is one of the wild bonobos’ best hopes for survival.
One day, I’m going to be brave enough to visit Lola ya Bonobo. In the meantime, in response to Panbanisha’s question, I’m coming back soon. Very soon. I hope you have my nest ready!
(Photo © Lynne Harty Photography)
From Publishers Weekly
Gruen enjoys minimal luck in trying to recapture the magic of her enormously successful Water for Elephants in this clumsy outing that begins with the bombing of the Great Ape Language Lab, a university research center dedicated to the study of the communicative behavior of bonobo apes. The blast, which terrorizes the apes and severely injures scientist Isabel Duncan, occurs one day after Philadelphia Inquirer reporter John Thigpen visits the lab and speaks to the bonobos, who answer his questions in sign language. After a series of personal setbacks, Thigpen pursues the story of the apes and the explosions for a Los Angeles tabloid, encountering green-haired vegan protesters and taking in a burned-out meth lab's guard dog. Meanwhile, as Isabel recovers from her injuries, the bonobos are sold and moved to New Mexico, where they become a media sensation as the stars of a reality TV show. Unfortunately, the best characters in this overwrought novel don't have the power of speech, and while Thigpen is mildly amusing, Isabel is mostly inert. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The characters are strongly written, their problems and joys happen as the story unfolds. I knew them so well that I got the inside jokes that were peppered throughout the book. For Isabel, the apes are much better family than her than her own flesh and blood, and she struggles with trusting more human beings. Johns's wife has written one book to blah reviews and can't find anyone to publish her newest. She needs more than writing reviews about mascara, so she takes a shady gig that moves her across the country while Isabel, John, and a cast of amusing others (including a Russian stripper) try to get the apes back from the bad guys.
My opinion may be tipped by my love of the great apes and especially bonobos. Though they are endangered species and have been treated horribly by the human race; babies torn from mothers, horrible testing tests in horrible conditions, but Gruen only brings us through one such facility, which was important, but the rest of the horrors were alluded to and the wonder of these creatures were clearly shown. As she described their interactions with people and each other I could actually picture it, having seen the real thing. Don't think the family in this book were given magical powers to communicate, that part was real.
The author told an important story woven into a lovely one.
I highly recommend!
Where Water for Elephants taps into a bygone era--traveling circuses--Ape House explores contemporary issues of the use of great apes in research--positively, e.g. teaching them sign language--and negatively, e.g. making them the "stars" of a so-called reality show.
Gruen weaves together a cast of characters--some heroes and some villains. The personal details of the characters' lives help catch the reader up in the story, and at the same time the underlying themes teach us something valuable about our human condition.
The author chose to write from many different points of view. While in many cases this can be detrimental to the story, I really feel she did a great job tying them all together. All I would have to say about the long list of characters is that she may have bordered on too many characters. She wove the story together very well, though.
I was absolutely riveted the entire time I read this book. I kept myself up in the wee hours of the morning reading away. I was desperate to find out what had happened to the bonobos, and I think she reached the climax of the book at great point. In the end, I felt that all the ends were tied up. I wasn't left hanging, and my only complaint is that her characters didn't speak their minds enough. They weren't quite as irrational as humans are so apt to being. There were so many moments of sheer anger and betrayal, and though each person got what was coming to them, I think there were a few different ways I might have reacted in a few of the scenarios.
Either way, I thought the book was very well researched and she seemed to have a lot of passion for it. For my first experience with this author, I have been pleasantly surprised.
It would be a fine book to introduce older children to the responsibility that we should feel for all of the animals who are often maltreated and harmed.
Superb job by a truly talented writer. Go buy it.
Most recent customer reviews
Good plot, interesting, and good character development. Very good read