BN.com Gift Guide

Ape House

( 425 )

Overview

 
Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John ...

See more details below
Paperback
$9.86
BN.com price
(Save 34%)$15.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (121) from $1.99   
  • New (17) from $2.69   
  • Used (104) from $1.99   
Ape House

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

 
Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside.

When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.

Ape House delivers great entertainment, but it also opens the animal world to us in ways few novels have done, securing Sara Gruen’s place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Leah Hager Cohen
Gruen is clearly enjoying herself here…And [Ape House] is fun, in an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink way: headlong and over-the-top. Much of the humor amounts to sight gags and saw-it-coming punch lines. But the conceit of a household of language-­endowed apes as the ne plus ultra of reality TV—leering humans greedy for profits and naughty thrills (bonobos have frequent sexual interactions with both opposite- and same-sex partners), apes who are at once innocent and more compassionate and dignified than the producers and the viewers—is terrific: an incisive piece of social commentary.
—The New York Times
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. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“Consider reality TV, meth labs, over-the-top animal-rights activists, Botox, tabloids and Internet diatribes, and you, too, might come to the conclusion: People should be more like animals. Sara Gruen’s entertaining, enlightening new novel will certainly leave you thinking so.”—Miami Herald 
 
 “Propulsive...Gruen writes with the commercial breathlessness of a cozier Dan Brown.”—Entertainment Weekly  
 
“Gruen delivers a tale that’s full of heart, hope, and compelling questions about who we really are.”—Redbook

“Animal lovers, gather ‘round...[Ape House] is much better [than Water for Elephants]—funny because of some weird characters and circumstances that make life difficult for our intrepid reporter, and at the same time, compelling because those apes put to shame our beloved Homo sapiens.”—Newark Star Ledger 
 
“Part expose, part thriller, part gothic romance and part comedy and farce...Gruen is a master at the popular novel plot.”—Asheville Citizen Times
 
“Gruen is clearly enjoying herself here. It is fun...the conceit of a household of language-­endowed apes as the ne plus ultra of reality TV — leering humans greedy for profits and naughty thrills...apes who are at once innocent and more compassionate and dignified than the producers and the viewers — is terrific: an incisive piece of social commentary.”—New York Times Book Review

"[Ape House] hums along with a pop-culture plot full of slick profiteers, sleazy pornographers, idiotic reality TV and gossip rags — with botox and ape sex thrown in for entertaining reading.”—Des Moines Register

“Gruen has a knack for pacing and for creating distinctive animal characters. Scenes involving the bonobos are winsome without being sappy, and the reader comes to share Isabel’s concern for the animals.”—Boston Globe 

"Gruen’s astute, wildly entertaining tale of interspecies connection is a novel of verve and conscience.”—Booklist (Starred review)

"Has the dramatic tension of a crime thriller...Twists and turns, lies, and treachery abound in this funny, clever, and perceptive story."—Library Journal (Starred review)

"Sara Gruen knows things—she knows them in her mind and in her heart. And, out of what she knows, she has created a true thriller that is addictive from its opening sentence. Devour it to find out what happens next, but also to learn remarkable and moving things about life on this planet. Very, very few novels can change the way you look at the world around you. This one does."—Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife
 
"I read Ape House in one joyous breath. Ever an advocate for animals, Gruen brings them to life with the passion of a novelist and the accuracy of a scientist. She has already done more for bonobos than I could do in a lifetime. The novel is immaculately researched and lovingly crafted. If people fall in love with our forgotten, fascinating, endangered relative, it will be because of Ape House."—Vanessa Woods, author of Bonobo Handshake

From the Hardcover edition.

Library Journal
The result of extensive research at the Great Ape Trust research facility in Des Moines, this fourth novel from Gruen (following the phenomenal Water for Elephants) has the dramatic tension of a crime thriller. Isabel Duncan is both scientist and den mother to six bonobos, outgoing, intelligent, and mischievous great apes who use American Sign Language and graphic symbols to communicate. Without warning, an explosion shatters their orderly existence. Were the animal rights protesters, an annoying presence outside the lab, behind this vicious act? Isabel spends weeks in the hospital and then can barely function when she learns that her six much loved bonobos have been stolen. With the help of lab intern Celia and two computer hacker friends, a sympathetic tabloid reporter, and an unforgettable Russian prostitute, Isabel wins out over a porn producer with the hottest reality show idea ever. Twists and turns, lies, and treachery abound in this funny, clever, and perceptive story. VERDICT Although the book is somewhat flawed by an abundance of stock characters, Gruen's achievement is nevertheless significant not only in illuminating the darkest corners of animal research but also in showing the depth of human-animal relationships. This will draw both confirmed and new devotees of Gruen's fiction. A perfectly plotted good read. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Kirkus Reviews

In this novel about a researcher's devotion to a family of bonobo apes, the author ofWater for Elephants(2006) turns her attention to another mistreated mammal whose intellectual capacity has been undervalued by humans.

Aspergerish Isabel Duncan has found joy studying the advanced language development of bonobo apes that have been raised to communicate in English and sign language. At the research lab where she works, the bonobos—matriarch Bonzi, outgoing Sam, adolescent Jelani, pregnant Makena, sensitive male Mbongo and baby Lola—are treated with respect and love, but animal-rights activists constantly protest the facility. Shortly afterPhiladelphia Inquirerreporter John Thigpen interviews Isabel, watches her play with the bonobos as an equal and experiences one-on-one communication with Bonzi, the Language Lab is bombed by masked intruders, and the Earth Liberation League, an animal-rights extremist group, claims responsibility. Isabel is seriously wounded. The apes are not physically hurt, but the university funding Isabel's research quickly sells them to a secret buyer to avoid further problems. Isabel's fiancé and boss Dr. Peter Benton's nonchalance horrifies her, and she throws him out even before she finds out he's slept with her assistant. (Gruen conveys to the reader loud and clear early on that Benton is a baddy.) The apes have ended up in New Mexico starring in a hit reality show produced by a porno magnate that emphasizes their sex lives over their language skills. Isabel vows to save the bonobos even if it means working with former enemies. Meanwhile John is fired from the Inquirerand moves to Los Angeles when his wife, a discouraged novelist, gets a TV job. When a sleazy tabloid hires John to check out the reality show in New Mexico, he and Isabel work separately and together to save the bonobos.

The factual information Gruen presents about bonobos and their language acquisition is compelling; unfortunately, the humans, who get far more page space, are a drag.

The Barnes & Noble Review

Quick. What do you know about bonobos?

a. Along with humans and dolphins, they are the only animals known to have recreational sex.
b. They are a matriarchal, egalitarian, peaceful culture.
c. They share 98.7 percent of their DNA with humans.
d. They look like chimpanzees but slimmer, with flatter features and black faces.
e. All of the above.

No matter if you got the right answer. (It's e.) After reading Sara Gruen's captivating fourth novel, Ape House, you'll not only know about bonobos in general, you'll also know half a dozen of these great apes as characters with personalities as distinct as fingerprints. Gruen's gift for reaching across the species divide is as evident in Ape House as it was in her mega-selling Water for Elephants, which featured Rosie, the Depression-era circus elephant. Not since Jack London explored the boundaries between the domesticated dog and the wolf in The Call of the Wild has a writer dramatized the bonds between humans and our fellow creatures with such empathy.

Gruen credits the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, with grounding her in solid research (including actual human-bonobo dialogue) for her latest, which begins with an extended family of six bonobos living in the university-sponsored Great Ape Language Lab. They communicate with humans via American Sign Language and lexigrams.

In poignant early scenes, Gruen demonstrates the loving relationships between Isabel, a key scientist at the lab, and the six bonobos in her care for eight years. "We are, all of us, collaborators. We are, in fact, family," Isabel explains to John, a down-on-his-luck reporter sent to cover the apes. With John we meet Bonzi, the matriarch of the group, "calm, assured, thoughtful and inordinately fond of M&Ms," and the others. Sam, the oldest male, is charismatic; Jeloni, an adolescent male, is a show-off; his biggest fan is Makena, who is pregnant. Lola, the baby, likes to tease. Mbongo is the smallest, most sensitive male.

The plot revs into high gear when the bonobos sense danger. "Visitor, Smoke," Sam signs urgently just before an explosion sends a fireball through the hallway. Isabel is badly injured, and the bonobos "liberated" into the treetops. An extremist animal-rights group claims responsibility. While recuperating, Isabel learns the university has sold the bonobos to a pornography producer and they are set to star in a reality TV show. She finds the opening clip appalling: "Six apes! One computer, and unlimited credit…Find out about our 'kissin' cousins' on Ape House." With Celia, her edgy magenta-haired intern, she heads to the set, determined to rescue them. John follows, hoping to find the story of his career.

As Isabel pursues her mission, Gruen underlines the power of the Internet, the tawdry tendencies of contemporary media ("Stir up hype," the producer demands. "Then send in the beer and cap guns"), and the increasingly cruel disconnects between humans and animals.

Isabel's mission keeps Ape House churning along. Gruen devotes equal time to plotlines involving John and his ambivalent wife Amanda, Isabel's colleagues, and a string of lesser players. But most of them pale by comparison to the bonobos. Lively, witty, warm-hearted and sharp, these six prove to be scene-stealers of the first order.

--Jane Ciabattari

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385523226
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 297,592
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sara Gruen
Sara Gruen is the author of the #1 bestselling novel Water for Elephants, as well as the bestseller Riding Lessons and Flying Changes. She shares her North Carolina home with her own version of a blended family: a husband, three children, four cats, two dogs, two horses, and a goat. In order to write her latest novel, Ape House, Gruen studied linguistics and a system of lexigrams so that she could communicate directly with the bonobos living at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. She now considers them to be part of her extended family, and, according to the bonobos, the feeling is mutual.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Ape House

A Novel
By Sara Gruen

Random House Large Print

Copyright © 2010 Sara Gruen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780739328040

Chapter One


The plane had yet to take off, but Osgood, the photographer, was already snoring softly. He was in the center seat, wedged between John Thigpen and a woman in coffee-colored stockings and sensible shoes. He listed heavily toward the latter, who, having already made a great point of lowering the armrest, was progressively becoming one with the wall. Osgood was blissfully unaware. John glanced at him with a pang of envy; their editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer was loath to spring for hotels and had insisted that they complete their visit to the Great Ape Language Lab in a single day. And so, despite seeing in the New Year the night before, John, Cat, and Osgood had all been on the 6 a.m. flight to Kansas City that same morning. John would have loved to close his eyes for a few minutes, even at the risk of accidentally cozying up to Osgood, but he needed to expand his notes while the details were fresh.

John’s knees did not fit within his allotted space, so he turned them outward into the aisle. Because Cat was behind him, reclining his seat was not an option. He was well aware of her mood. She had an entire row to herself—an unbelievable stroke of luck—but she had just asked the flight attendant for two gins and a tonic. Apparently having three seats to herself was not enough to offset the trauma of having spent her day poring over linguistics texts when she had been expecting to meet six great apes. Although she’d tried to disguise the symptoms of her cold ahead of time and explain away the residual as allergies, Isabel Duncan, the scientist who had greeted them, sussed her out immediately and banished her to the Linguistics Department. Cat had turned on her legendary charm, which she reserved for only the most dire of circumstances, but Isabel had been like Teflon. Bonobos and humans share 98.7 percent of their DNA, she’d said, which makes them susceptible to the same viruses. She couldn’t risk exposing them, particularly as one was pregnant. Besides, the Linguistics Department had fascinating new data on the bonobos’ vocalizations. And so a disappointed, sick, and frustrated Cat spent the afternoon at Blake Hall hearing about the dynamic shape and movement of tongues while John and Osgood visited the apes.

“You were behind glass anyway, right?” Cat complained in the taxi afterward. She was crammed between John and Osgood, both of whom kept their heads turned toward their respective windows in a futile attempt to avoid germs. “I don’t see how I could have given them anything from behind glass. I would have stood at the back of the room if she’d asked me. Hell, I’d have worn a gas mask.” She paused to snort Afrin up both nostrils and then honked mightily into a tissue. “Do you have any idea what I went through today?” she continued. “Their lingo is completely incomprehensible. I was already in trouble at ‘discourse.’ Next thing I knew it was ‘declarative illocutionary point’ this, ‘deontic modality’ that, blah blah blah.” She emphasized the “blahs” with her hands, waving the Afrin bottle in one and the crumpled tissue in the other. “I almost lost it on ‘rank lexical relation.’ Sounds like a smelly, overly chatty uncle, doesn’t it? How on earth do they think I’m going to be able to work that into a newspaper piece?”

John and Osgood exchanged a silent, relieved glance when they got their seat assignments for the trip home. John didn’t know Osgood’s take on today’s experience—they hadn’t had a moment alone—but for John, something massive had shifted.

He’d had a two-way conversation with great apes. He’d spoken to them in English, and they’d responded using American Sign Language, all the more remarkable because it meant they were competent in two human languages. One of the apes, Bonzi, arguably knew three: she was able to communicate by computer using a specially designed set of lexigrams. John also hadn’t realized the complexity of their native tongue—during the visit, the bonobos had clearly demonstrated their ability to vocalize specific information, such as flavors of yogurt and locations of hidden objects, even when unable to see each other. He’d looked into their eyes and recognized without a shadow of a doubt that sentient, intelligent beings were looking back. It was entirely different from peering into a zoo enclosure, and it changed his comprehension of the world in such a profound way he could not yet articulate it.

Being cleared by Isabel Duncan was only the first step in getting inside the apes’ living quarters. After Cat’s banishment to Blake Hall, Osgood and John were taken into an administrative office to wait while the apes were consulted. John had been told ahead of time that the bonobos had final say over who came into their home, and also that they’d been known to be fickle: over the past two years, they’d allowed in only about half of their would-be visitors. Knowing this, John had stacked his odds as much as possible. He researched the bonobos’ tastes online and bought a backpack for each, which he stuffed with favorite foods and toys—bouncy balls, fleece blankets, xylophones, Mr. Potato Heads, snacks, and anything else he thought they might find amusing. Then he emailed Isabel Duncan and asked her to tell the bonobos he was bringing surprises. Despite his efforts, John found that his forehead was beaded with sweat by the time Isabel returned from the consultation and informed him that not only were the apes allowing Osgood and him to come in, they were insisting.

She led them into the observation area, which was separated from the apes by a glass partition. She took the backpacks, disappeared into a hallway, reappeared on the other side of the glass, and handed them to the apes. John and Osgood stood watching as the bonobos unpacked their gifts. John was so close to the partition his nose and forehead were touching it. He’d almost forgotten it was there, so when the M&M’s surfaced and Bonzi leapt up to kiss him through the glass, he nearly fell backward.

Although John already knew that the bonobos’ preferences varied (for example, he knew Mbongo’s favorite food was green onions and that Sam loved pears), he was surprised by how distinct, how differentiated, how almost human, they were: Bonzi, the matriarch and undisputed leader, was calm, assured, and thoughtful, if unnervingly fond of M&M’s. Sam, the oldest male, was outgoing and charismatic, and entirely certain of his own magnetism. Jelani, an adolescent male, was an unabashed show-off with boundless energy and a particular love of leaping up walls and then flipping over backward. Makena, the pregnant one, was Jelani’s biggest fan, but was also exceedingly fond of Bonzi and spent long periods grooming her, sitting quietly and picking through her hair, with the result that Bonzi was balder than the others. The infant, Lola, was indescribably cute and also a stitch—John witnessed her yank a blanket out from under Sam’s head while he was resting and then come barreling over to Bonzi for protection, signing, bad surprise! bad surprise! (According to Isabel, messing with another bonobo’s nest was a major transgression, but there was another rule that trumped it: in their mothers’ eyes, bonobo babies could do no wrong.) Mbongo, the other adult male, was smaller than Sam and of a more sensitive nature: he opted out of further conversations with John after John unwittingly misinterpreted a game called Monster Chase. Mbongo put on a gorilla mask, which was John’s cue to act terrified and let Mbongo chase him. Unfortunately, nobody had told John, who didn’t even realize Mbongo was wearing a mask until the ape gave up and pulled it off, at which point John laughed. This was so devastating that Mbongo turned his back and flatly refused to acknowledge John from that point forward. Isabel eventually cheered him up by playing the game properly, but he declined to interact with John for the rest of the visit, which left John feeling as if he’d slapped a baby.

“Excuse me.”

John looked up to find a man standing in the aisle, unable to move past John’s legs. John shifted sideways and wrangled them into Osgood’s space, which elicited a grunt. When the man passed, John returned his legs to the aisle and as he did so caught sight of a woman three rows up holding a book whose familiar cover shot a jolt of adrenaline through him. It was his wife’s debut novel, although she had recently forbidden him from using that particular phrase since it was beginning to look as though her debut novel was also going to be her last. Back when The River Wars first came out and John and Amanda were still feeling hopeful, they had coined the phrase “a sighting in the wild” to describe finding some random person in the act of reading it. Until this moment it had been theoretical. John wished Amanda had been the one to experience it. She was in desperate need of cheering up, and he’d very nearly concluded that he was helpless in that department. John checked for the location of the flight attendant. She was in the galley, so he whipped out his cell phone, rose slightly out of his seat, and snapped a picture.

The drinks cart returned; Cat bought more gin, John ordered coffee, and Osgood continued to rumble subterraneously while his human cushion glowered.

John got out his laptop and started a new file:

Similar to chimpanzees in appearance but with slimmer build, longer limbs, flatter brow ridge. Black or dusky gray faces, pink lips. Black hair parted down the center. Expressive eyes and faces. High-pitched and frequent vocalizations. Matriarchal, egalitarian, peaceful. Extremely amorous. Intense female bonding.

Although John had known something of the bonobos’ demonstrative nature, he had been initially caught off-guard at the frequency of their sexual contact, particularly between females. A quick genital rub seemed as casual as a handshake. There were predictable occurrences, such as immediately before sharing food, but mostly there was no rhyme or reason that John could ascertain.

John sipped his coffee and considered. What he really needed to do was transcribe the interview with Isabel while he could still recall and annotate the non-aural details: her expressions and gestures, and the moment—unexpected and lovely—when she’d broken into ASL. He plugged his earphones into his voice recorder, and began:

ID:So this is the part where we talk about me?

JT:Yes.

ID:[nervous laugh] Great. Can we talk about someone else instead?

JT:Nope. Sorry.

ID:I was afraid of that.

JT:So what made you get into this type of work?

ID:I was taking a class with Richard Hughes—he’s the one who founded the lab—and he talked a little about the work he was doing. I was utterly fascinated.

JT:He passed away recently, didn’t he?

ID:Yes. [pause] Pancreatic cancer.

JT:I’m sorry.

ID:Thank you.

JT:So anyway, this class. Was it linguistics? Zoology?

ID:Psychology. Behavioral psychology.

JT:Is that what your degree is in?

ID:My first one. I think originally I thought it might help me understand my family—wait, can you please scratch that?

JT:Scratch what?

ID:That bit about my family. Can you take it out?

JT:Sure. No problem.

ID:[makes gesture of relief] Whew. Thanks. Okay, so basically I was this aimless first-year kid taking a psychology class, and I heard about the ape project and I went, and after I met the apes I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I can’t really describe it adequately. I begged and pleaded with Dr. Hughes to be allowed to do something, anything. I would mop floors, clean toilets, do laundry, just to be near them. They just . . . [long pause, faraway look] . . . I don’t know if I can say what it is. It just . . . is. I felt very strongly that this was where I belonged.

JT:So he let you.

ID:Not quite. [laughs] He told me that if I took a comprehensive linguistics course over the summer, read all his work, and came back to him fluent in ASL he’d think about it.

JT:And did you?

ID:[seems surprised] Yeah. I did. It was the hardest summer of my life. That’s like telling someone to go off and become fluent in Japanese over four months. ASL is not simply signed English—it’s a unique language, with a unique syntax. It’s usually time-topic-comment-oriented, although like English, there’s variability. For instance, you could say [starts signing], “Day-past me eat cherries,” or you could say, “Day-past eat cherries me.” But that is not to say that ASL doesn’t also use the subject-verb-?object structure; it simply doesn’t use “state-of-being” verbs.


From the Hardcover edition.

Continues...

Excerpted from Ape House by Sara Gruen Copyright © 2010 by Sara Gruen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. What does the success of the show Ape House reveal about human society? Why do you think its audience finds it especially compelling? How does it compare to the other types of media discussed in the novel?

2. The bonobos in Ape House are described as matriarchal, with Bonzi acting as the nurturing and intelligent "undisputed leader" (p. 6) of the group. Discuss how Bonzi's relationship with her family compares or contrasts with the various human characters' relationships with their own mothers. Consider Amanda's desire - and Ivanka's - to have children in your discussion.

3. Why is Isabel so attached to the bonobos? What does she enjoy about their company (and that of Stuart, her late fish) that other people do not offer her? What prevents her from connecting at the beginning, and how does that change by the end?

4. Isabel says "[the bonobos] know they're bonobos and they know we're human, but it doesn't imply mastery, or superiority" (p. 10). The bonobos are clearly sentient animals, demonstrating the use of both language and tools, two criteria often cited as proof of the separation between humans and other primates. What, then, actually separates us from them?

5. "At this moment, the story in his head was perfect. [John] also knew from experience that it would degenerate the second he started typing, because such was the nature of writing" (p. 215). John and Amanda are both writers who struggle to maintain integrity while making a living. Discuss the importance of writing, language, and creativity in the novel, as well as the compromises the characters are forced to accept.

6. In Ape House, Sara Gruen uses humor to reveal the many flaws of human society. Is this device effective for revealing human foibles? Did you identify with her portrayal of human behavior?

7. Which of the human characters in Ape House is most like a bonobo?

8. Contrast the physical and emotional transformations of Isabel and Amanda. What are the reasons for their change? How does it affect both of them and their relationships with the other characters?

9. Do you think the use of animals for research, even when it does not physically or emotionally harm them, is an inherent infringement upon the animal's free will, as the ELL would argue? Or is there a way for animal-related research to be beneficial to human society while also protecting and respecting the animals' rights? Discuss how Ape House explores the different sides of this issue.

10. Over the course of the novel, John grows increasingly concerned about the possibility of having fathered a child with Ginette Pinegar, while Isabel doesn't understand why a biological link to the boy should make a difference. For the bonobos, on the other hand, the concept of paternity is irrelevant. Discuss the way Ape House deals with family structures.

11. Compare the bonobos' behavior with that of the humans in the novel. Do you think of human behavior differently after reading the novel?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 425 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(111)

4 Star

(149)

3 Star

(99)

2 Star

(41)

1 Star

(25)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 429 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2010

    Very disappointing.

    "Water for Elephants" is one of my all-time favorite books, so I couldn't wait for "Ape House". What a disappointment. It ended up being a sad book about sad people with no character development. Too much talk about sexual monkey actions and people who hate their jobs. I found it daunting that so many negative aspects were included in the story - prostitutes, meth labs, alcohol abuse, animal abuse, and lying by the media. Although I had to get to the last chapter to finally find something positive, it was not worth the read.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Nice Change

    "Ape House" is a light read that attempts to open the animal world to us by bringing the Bonobos Apes to life in an original way.

    This is a story about a family of Bonobos, their caretaker scientist Isabel Duncan and a down to earth reporter John Thigpen. I will cover the plotting in a few words, it begins with the primate language laboratory being bombed and Isabel left badly injured, severe enough to end up in the trauma ward of the closest hospital. The Bonobos fall into the hands of a porn producer and are locked up in a house with cameras broadcasting their every move on cable television. Reporter John Thigpen covers the story while his personal life is on a down turn, his home life it is about to take a drastic change. The plotting gets meatier when Isabel is released from hospital and teams up with John to find out who targeted the laboratory, for what reason and what has happened to her family of apes.

    The story explores in a far-fetched semi captivating manner, the issue of animal rights from the point of view of activists, scientists and the public. The plot takes a meandering course with a bit of action here and there mostly done by the humans, there are also subtle references to sexual activities amongst the apes and their unique methods of communication. I found this part satire and part morality driven tale was presented to us by a cast of lackluster and easily forgotten characters, maybe if the Bonobos had been given a greater role it would have left a more lasting impression. Unfortunately the book started strong just to peter out by the end, I was disappointed when the tale did not capture the apes' behaviour, gestures and emotions in a more detailed fashion.

    Although the story was not what I had anticipated, I nevertheless enjoyed the change.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Book

    While this book was not as Great as Water for Elephants, it was a very good book. Once I started it I didn't want to put it down until I was fnished with the story. I am looking forward to reading more of her books as they come out.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 24, 2011

    Lame

    This book compelled me to write my first review. Would this have been published without Gruen's previous success with Water for Elephants? Surely not. Sketchy character development - Amanda Thigpin especially. Hard to warm up to any of the key characters - Isabel or John, or even the apes! Strange disconnected details that make the plot seem comical. Ugh.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2011

    Great read

    I LOVED Water for Elephants and couldn't wait to read Ape House.
    Although not the book Water was, it is a great read for when you're looking for someting not too heavy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    Better than Water for Elephants.

    Even better than Water for Elephants.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 30, 2013

    Wonderful read. One of the first things I liked about the book i

    Wonderful read. One of the first things I liked about the book is the use of imagery by Ms. Gruen....regardless of the setting. I could easily picture the characters, the bonobos, the places, the crowds; I could smell the food, the grime, the gravel and the smoke. That alone was enough to compel me to read the book in one sitting. Movies sometimes are blamed for robbing us of our imagination, but, in my opinion, it is hard for an author to provide us with enough details that little imagination is needed to comprehend the brutality of an act. Without revealing much more of what already has been described in the overview, in my eyes, the Author's masterful caption of the effects of the explosion on our heroine played like a reel in slow motion. Well done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    Good read

    A good read with accurate animal information which makes it believable and enjoyable. The human interactions were a bit lacking to me in some way that I find difficult to describe. Over all it was a pleasurable read that I wiuld recommend.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2012

    Disappointed

    Simply not as good as Water for Elephants.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2012

    Loved it

    Entrrtaining and informative


    i

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Brilliant!!!

    Absolutely brilliant!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it!

    I could not put this book down, loved it although some of the animal cruelty was difficult to read about the end result is worth the read. I'm so glad my book club picked this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2011

    A one trick pony

    After her Water for Elephants, this was a let down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Ok but no Water For Elephants

    I read this book expecting the storytelling and character development of Water For Elephants, and although the novel held my interest, it lacked something in comparison to Gruen's last work.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 30, 2011

    Keep me interested

    I read this because I really enjoyed Water for Elephants. I liked the character Isabel and enjoyed the apes. Wish it was more about that and less about some of the other characters. It was really good in certain parts and just okay in others. Could have done without Amanda.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 23, 2011

    Loved it!

    Sara Gruen is a masterful storyteller. She manages to once again weave a concise and emotional story together, along with a bit of education for us to learn by.similar to that of her other novels, including Water for Elephants.

    Our story starts at a university facility where our heroine, Isabel Duncan, is solely interested in her family of apes, whom she has spent years teaching sign language as the study. They are her family until the day the site is bombed and the apes disappear until they are suddenly found on a reality tv show.

    This book not only shows the intelligence levels of these endangered animals, but it also makes you wonder "who are the real amimals?". Would it be the apes, or the humans who use and abuse them for their own purposes and gains? It also allows for Isabel to learn to trust old and new friends in her quest to find and rescue the apes from what could ultimately be very harmful to them.

    I loved this book. I encourage others to also try it out. From the initial explosive start, this novel had me until it's emotional end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wonderful view into the world of Bonobos

    I used to be an intern at a zoo and had some experience working around great apes. I wanted to try this book, because of my past experience as well as reading Water for Elephants. I really enjoyed this book!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 13, 2011

    Loved it!

    A friend of mine recommended this after I had loaned her "Water for Elephants." It is very different from Elephants...but I like that and was very intrigued with this story. Really did not want it to end!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2011

    Great read

    I enjoyed this book at a weekend at the water it is interestng, informative, and entertaining with just enough mystery to keep the reader entangled. This author has captivated me since Water for Elephants. I can't wait for more offerings.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

    Good weekend read

    Water for Elephants is one of my all time favorite books. So I was excited to pick up Ape House. Though it lacked charisma and magic as was portrayed in Water for Elephants- it was still a good read. It veers on a more realistic side of life, marriage, social issues, media, and animal cruelty. It still ultimately holds a heart warming story of the relationship between Isabel and the bonobos while opening the readers eyes to animal abuse in America. If you are looking to read a book for a quick escape into a magical love story- this is not the book for you. If Sara Gruen kept writing the same storyline as Water for Elephants but used bonobos instead- she would be criticized for being uncreative and repetitive. Overall, it's a good book about the harsh realities of the real world, animal exploitation, and cruelty while maintaining love and compassion.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 429 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)