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.
Lucy Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 13, 2010
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
The characters are flat and two-dimensional: Good Scientist, Bad Politician, etc. It is as though they were born of some stereotypical character computer generator. The dialogue is atrocious and inconsistent. Amanda (aka Miss Everyday American Teen), Lucy's best friend spends a scene teaching Lucy to say "word" and later describes something as an "Orwellian grope through the political, sociological and ethical issues". Or later when Mr Everyman Janitor says "They seen your genes. They seen 'em" followed almost immediately by "Beats me. I'm just the factotum." A stereotyped character is bad but one that can't even stay in stereotypical character? Atrocious!
And Lucy herself? Why she is the sheer essence of perfection. In an ironic little twist Gonzales refers to the Twilight books at one point as "trash" but it seems to me that Lucy is as close to a female Edward Cullen as I've ever seen. She is absolutely perfect in every possible way: beautiful, brilliant, charming with super-strength and the ability to talk to animals (yeah, that's right). She also takes to American life with the utmost ease (despite having spent her entire life in the Congo) buying shoes and thong underwear and wearing bikinis. I expected that (hybrid or no) someone from the Congo would introduce a little perspective on the opulent American lifestyle. Lucy was confused by America for about ten pages and then she wildly embraced the facebook-text-message-clothes-shoes-and-prom ideology of the American teen.
The biggest issue I had with this novel was the overall lack of controversy within it. A human-ape hybrid is supposed to be something shocking and controversial but instead all we get are "the good guys" - those on Lucy's side and "the bad guys" - those who oppose her for no substantial reasons. Lucy desperately needs a FLAW. She should be unstable or dangerous or SOMETHING. There is a reason scientists don't create hybrids and it isn't because the Bible says not to. It is not a wise thing to do. Reading about Lucy-the-Great-and-Wonderful-Heroine got a little sickening at times.
Overall, good idea, terrible execution.
I will mention that I read this book on the heels of the bonobo-oriented, much more interesting and entertaining nonfiction book "Sex at Dawn."
Maybe I'm just tired of pygmy chimps.
This was really an atrocious book.
The writing was hyperbolic, and frequently I found some turn of a phrase or zeugma forced and overwraught.
I couldn't get any sense of where things were going - was this a social commentary? Religious indictment? A thriller? Paean to tweens and twihards? A philosophical discussion of What is Human?
As I read this, it made me think of the movie "Splice" which was far more thought-provoking within its primary goal of being entertaining. I didn't think that Lucy was either.
Characters are either noble (Lucy et al.) or evil (fundamentalists). I'm all for hypocrisy bashing, but this is a one-note tune, and I couldn't wait for it to end.
I give the author 3 stars for tossing some interesting concepts out there for us to consider, but the predicable plot and monotonic characterizations keep me from recommending this book at all.