Ape House

Ape House

by Sara Gruen

Paperback(Large Print)

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Overview

The wildly entertaining new novel from the bestselling author of Water for Elephants. 

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn't understand people, but apes she gets—especially the bonobos Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena, who are capable of reason and communication through American Sign Language. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she's ever felt among humans—until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter writing a human interest feature. But when an explosion rocks the lab, John's piece turns into the story of a lifetime—and Isabel must connect with her own kind to save her family of apes from a new form of human exploitation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739328040
Publisher: Diversified Publishing
Publication date: 09/07/2010
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.94(w) x 11.18(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of At the Water's Edge, Water for Elephants, Ape House, Riding Lessons, and Flying Changes. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. Water for Elephants was adapted into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz in 2011. She lives in western North Carolina with her husband and three sons, along with their dogs, cats, horses, birds, and the world’s fussiest goat.


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.

Reading Group Guide

1. 1. 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 families. Consider Amanda’s desire—and Ivanka’s—to have children in your discussion.
 
2. 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?
 
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?

Customer Reviews

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Ape House 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 495 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"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.
Tigerpaw70 More than 1 year ago
"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.
BethAnnH More than 1 year ago
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.
DevotedReaderTX More than 1 year ago
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.
tina1969 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What happens when you take six extroadinary bonobos apes who know sign language, a scientist who understands them and an animal protestors group who liberate the animals into the wrong hands, a TV producer.My Thoughts:I liked `Water of Elephants¿ very much and had high expectations for this book. However I felt rather let down by at as it wasn¿t half as good. The story was OK and the book started off very promising. I could see that if there were something not quite the norm that somebody would like to exploit it for money, so yeah the story worked.I know nothing at all about the Bonobos and have done nothing to look into them so had great difficulty comprehending their behavior, I felt it seemed a little far fetched.My problem was that I could feel no emotion from the book and I didn¿t connect with the book. As the story progressed I felt I was getting rather bored with it. I was even at the point of flicking through the very quarter of the book. Infact I think I missed who actually sold the apes and I can¿t be bothered to pick up the book to find out, I have lost interest completely. This for is a shame because W for E wa such a good book. A very poor read !
DubaiReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating insight into a group of big apes.It's always a hard job to follow up an excellent book like Water for Elephants, one of the few books I have read twice. Having said that, I enjoyed Ape House; it was full of action and had some interesting characters. It also taught me a lot about the big apes, more specifically the bonobos.Possibly it was simply the fascinating history and quirky characters that lifted WFE above Ape House because this also had a lot to offer and I was eagerly turning pages towards the end.The two main human characters were Isabel Duncan, the research scientist involved with work on language and communiction between humans and the apes, and John Thigpen, a struggling reporter, who happened to have been doing a piece on the apes the day before their premisis was blown up by an animal welfare organisation. The most fascinating characters though, were the apes themselves who had learned to communicate using ASL (American Sign Language) and could understand, if not vocalise, spoken English.Ms Gruen uses the bombing of the premisis and eventual sale of the bonobos to illustrate some of the atrocious things that we, as a race, do to animals in the name of science. Fortunately, the point made, she moves on fairly rapidly, but not withoiut having sown the seed of concern in our minds.Meanwhile, the bonobos find themselves the subject of a live reality television show, Ape House.Isabel thinks of these animals as her family and will stop at nothing to rescue them from their fate. Whether she succeeds, and if so, how, is the back-drop to the ongoing 24hr live screening of the apes as they go about their semi-humanised lives.Some fascinating content and almost a 5 star read.
elliepotten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most of the reviews I've read of this book have been quite unanimous on one point: that Ape House isn't as good as Water for Elephants. Which bodes very well for my future Gruen reading, considering how much I enjoyed this one!Before I even started reading, I was fascinated by Gruen's description (on the dustjacket) of meeting some of the bonobos at the Great Ape Trust during her two years of research, bringing them backpacks of goodies and having a two-way conversation in American Sign Language. Some of this experience translates directly into the novel, which opens with John Thigpen, a reporter, meeting scientist Isabel Duncan and the bonobos at her Great Ape Language Lab. Shortly after his visit, the lab is bombed, with an extreme animal activist group claiming responsibility for the bonobos' 'liberation' via an internet video. While Isabel is in hospital recovering from her horrific injuries, the bonobos are recaptured and end up forming the central premise for a new reality TV show, the Ape House of the title. The novel follows the impact of the bombing on the lives of Isabel and her friend Celia, John and his wife Amanda, and, of course, the apes, along with multiple other people on the periphery of their story. Will Isabel and her ape 'family' ever be reunited? And will the perpetrators of this devastating attack be found and brought to justice?On the surface, this is an easy and compelling read. The plot is well paced, the main characters are well drawn and sympathetic, and the minor characters are diverse and, in several cases, quite amusing. Underneath all of this, however, is an incredibly fascinating glimpse into the world of the great apes. The bonobos - six of them, including Bonzi and her baby Lola, and the wonderfully named Mbongo - are brought to life in such an endearing and delightful way that it is impossible not to root for them at every turn. The linguistic and cognitive capabilities of the apes in the book are all closely based on real bonobo language research. There is also a horrendous section describing the activities of a rather less scrupulous scientific laboratory (though Gruen does point out in her author note that such cruel experimentation is, thankfully, now illegal).All in all, I would say that this is an eminently readable novel that covers a lot of complex issues, including family relationships, scientific ethics, modern media, and what it really means to be human. Gruen includes a couple of further reading suggestions at the back of the book, which I'll definitely be chasing up, and she has given her readers a thoughtful insight into bonobo behaviour and how closely related we are to our ape cousins. Recommended!
ABookVacation on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure how I felt about this book when I picked it up, but I really loved "Water For Elephants," so I thought I'd give Gruen's new book a try. I really enjoyed it. This book has just the right amount of mystery to keep you interested, even when some of the ape information is not, and in the end, it all blends together very nicely for a wonderful novel. If you liked "Water For Elephants," read this. If you haven't read "Water For Elephants," read that first. :)
pither on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Extremely good, literally could not put it down this morning and ended up finishing it in just over one day. Has the grittiness and great characterization of Water for Elephants, but with some highly enjoyable twists of humour as well (Booger the dog just takes it!). Will likely be adding to my to-buy list.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The great success of Water for Elephants made it almost a certainty that Sara Gruen¿s follow-up novel would suffer by comparison. That one set the bar so high that it would have been a real surprise if Gruen had been able to reach those heights with successive novels. What we know now is that, though she might very well achieve that kind of magic again one day, Ape House is not the one that will do it for her.Ape House begins rather promisingly in the Great Ape Language Lab where Isabel Duncan and her university assistants are studying the communicative adaptability of a small family of bonobo apes. By using basic ASL (the American Sign Language system), the apes are able to converse with their keepers, even to the point of expressing their desires, emotions, and feelings about their life behind bars. The apes, in effect, have learned to understand, and speak, simple English. Isabel Duncan has, at the same time, grown so close to them that she considers the apes to be family.All too soon, however, Gruen takes Ape House in the wrong direction. Rather than concentrating on the unique relationship between the apes and their humans, she spends the bulk of the book exploring the romantic relationships of her human characters, in effect stealing any potential magic Ape House had, and transforming it into a mediocre romance novel. After the lab is blown up by a grotesque group of animal activists, and Isabel is almost killed in the explosion, reporter John Thigpen feels compelled to follow the tragedy to its end despite having to take a job with a trashy Los Angeles tabloid in order to be able to do so. Thigpen had visited the apes only hours before the blast and was changed by the experience, coming away from the lab with the feeling that the apes were every bit as ¿human¿ as the newspaper crew flying home with him.While Isabelle is still recovering from her injuries, the university sponsoring the language lab decides to sell the apes to a pornographic film producer who wants to give the animals their very own reality television show. The bonobos are given their own house, complete with a computer to order whatever they desire (including individual food selections), exercise equipment, comfortable furniture and a big screen television. There are so many cameras in the house that the animals never have a moment of privacy ¿ everything they do is shown on live television, 24 hours a day. Despite the fact that none of Ape House¿s human characters are as interesting (and certainly not as likable) as the apes, the novel spends the bulk of its time on human relationships. Gruen uses these characters, and their efforts either to exploit or to save the apes, to expose the absurdities of modern culture ¿ particularly in regard to reality TV, Hollywood phonies, shrinking newspaper circulation, and celebrity worship. She neglects, however, what would have perhaps saved the book: the interrelationship between the apes and the humans with whom they come into contact. The chance to explore such a relationship is probably what drew most readers to Ape House in the first place, and its near absence leaves the book reading more as farce than legitimate social commentary. Rated at: 2.5
Lisahgolden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I listened to the audio book of Water for Elephants and really enjoyed it so when I saw the audio book of Ape House, I grabbed it off the library shelf. That same day I found the book at the library and picked it up, as well. I began listening to the audio version, but found that I was so interested in the story, I couldn't wait to get back into the car to listen so I ended up reading in about a day and a half.I like Gruen's style of writing. She doesn't waste words and she does dialog well. Where Water for Elephants was set in the past and captured that time well, Ape House is set in the current time and Gruen does a good job of making the story representative of its time, incorporating cultural standards and quirks that were both perversely amusing and, at times, gut wrenching.While there a couple of passages that were so over the top in making their point about human foibles that I found myself cringing self-consciously, the vast majority of the writing is pitch perfect.The author clearly understood the subject of bonobos. At the end of the book, she explains how she came up with the idea for the novel and the lengths to which she went or was honored to go to research the topic. Gruen's empathy with the bonobos and her love of them shows as she created some great characters in the form of great apes. Meanwhile, Gruen's human characters are equally engaging.On a side note, I've noticed that I'm choosing books that feature characters who are published authors or working their way through the publishing process. I don't know if this is because there are now more characters like this being written as the publishing process has become less mysterious with so much information on the internet or if it's due to the fact that authors are writing those characters because they know them, they understand what makes them tick and they want to include some part of the process in their novels because their lives are so consumed by being a writer.
LaurenMJenkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a GREAT story. My happy tears are still drying.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ape House is a light and entertaining read and is actually a bit of a thriller which you might not expect from the title.
gypsysmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had to wait for a while to get this book from the library but once I got it I gobbled it down.The apes referred to in the title are bonobos which are sometime mistaken for chimpanzees. They are extremely intelligent and have the ability to converse with ASL and pictograms. They are also sexually free and live in a matriarchal society. Someone referred to them as the hippies of the jungle.In the book an explosion damages the facility the apes live in and severely injures the researcher who looks after them. The university where the research facility is located decides to sell the bonobos and they end up as the subject of a reality TV show called Ape House. Meanwhile the researcher and a journalist and other people who care about the apes try to free them.This book will convince you that primates are intelligent and it will make you question how they should be held in captivity. There is a facility in the Congo that cares for orphaned bonobos and then releases them back to the jungle. But knowing how warfare is tearing apart that country I wonder how viable this facility is.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am one of the minority that did not enjoy Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I can¿t really say why I didn¿t enjoy it, as I read it a few years ago (and maybe my opinion will have changed if I try it again), but I do remember feeling just.. dissatisfaction with it.So, with that background, I put off reading Ape House until I was wandering through the library and just decided to pick it up. I didn¿t have high hopes, but I was pleasantly surprised.I think I enjoyed this book more because of the apes, though. In thinking back on it, the characters weren¿t as developed as I would have liked and the story had quite a few plot holes ¿ but the ape parts were fascinating to me. More importantly, the story served as a springboard for me to go and check out the Great Ape Trust¿s Web site.All of that information aside, what it boiled down to was that I enjoyed this book. I read it on gloomy, rainy afternoon and I only got up from my couch to get a drink or attend to nature. That, to me, is a sign that Sara was doing something right.
ursula on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The apes of the title are a group of bonobos that have been living in a research facility centered on teaching them language. The facility is bombed, the apes go missing, only to turn up again in a rather unexpected place. The plot seemed really thin to me. I mean, a lot happened, I suppose, but none of it really got me that involved. The character I most liked was a secondary one (Ivanka) introduced about halfway through whose apathetic outside hid an unexpectedly thoughtful inside.I guess we were supposed to walk away from the main character, John's, story arc thinking that he had realized what was important in life, but honestly I didn't understand or empathize with his relationship with his wife at all. As far as I could tell, he was with her because he was loyal and thought she was beautiful. The book was all right, but I didn't find a lot of heart to it.
Liciasings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! One of the best books I've read in a long time. Sara Gruen is both intelligent and entertaining. The story is well-researched, suspensful, fascinating, wonderful! If you liked "Water for Elephants" or "Life of Pi," or if you are at all interested in stories about linguistics or animals, you'll love this book. Even if not, it's a fantastic read!
JolieB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Know that feeling when your favorite hardcore rock band releases some sappy love ballad? That's Apehouse. I was excited to read this latest book by the author of Water for Elephants and it started off well. Sara Gruen is obviously adept when it comes to cadence and dialogue, but the execution and development of the storyline sucked. The characters were weakly drawn and if this novel had something to say (there's a procreation theme that seems to indicate it was trying) I'm not sure what it was supposed to be. Many of the details and much of the plot (especially the elements related to journalism) are either wrong or downright cliche. Ditto for the characters, at least half of which could have been eliminated without changing the story one bit.I'm not sure how the same person who churned out Water for Elephants¿partially during NanoWriMo, no less¿came up with this discombobulation. Although it's just speculation, I imagine Gruen surrounded by nattering publisher-types demanding an impossible combination of elements to give the book the most marketing reach. She complies and produces a book that not only is not all things to all people, but nothing to no people. At least I hope that's the reason and she's able to stay true to herself on the next go around. The Bonobos could have written a better novel than this mess.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure about this book when I picked it up, but after seeing several strong reviews for it here in the 75ers group, I figured, why not? The story centers around a journalist, a scientist (animal behavior specialist), and a family of bonobos. When the bonobo project center is bombed, the animals are sold without the scientist's consent as she recovers from serious injuries sustained from the blast. When the bonobos appear on-air in a reality television show that no one seems to know anything about, the race is on to find and recover the animals before they become sick, injured, or worse... because one of the bonobos is pregnant, and the show producers don't know about it.My favorite parts of the book were the segments showcasing the relationship & communication between the scientist and the bonobos. At the back of the book, Gruen describes her own experience at a bonobo language project, where she did research for the book and had a chance to talk face-to-face with a family of bonobos. Many of her experiences went directly into the novel, with names and minor details changed. It's absolutely astounding the level of complexity these creatures can grasp and communicate with ASL -- the grammar may be simple, but the ideas conveyed are not. We really can, in reality, communicate with primates just as if we were talking to another human being. It's so incredible, I don't even have the words to describe how utterly awe-inspiring this is to me.As for the actual plot and character development within the novel, it was good and kept me interested. I would have loved even more about the animals, but for that, I know, I should read a science/nature non-fiction book. There were several good twists in terms of discovering who the real villain was and who sold out the bonobos, and the subplot featuring the journalist and his wife seemed to develop realistically, and I really didn't know how it was going to turn out in the end.I'd say that if you enjoy books about animals (but don't want to cry at the end) and are interested in the real subject matter the story was based on, you'll enjoy the book. The tension is sustained well but isn't over-the-top, making this a good low-key read that people with varying tastes in fiction can enjoy.
sgsain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not Water for Elephants. Although the premise is interesting and unique, the execution lacks the enchantment of "Elephants." I think it was that the characters were just not that engaging. I never became fully vested in their lives. The story does present a compelling argument for the humane treatment of animals used by scientists for study as well as a searing indictment of the motivations behind reality TV. If you are a fan of Water for Elephants, should you read this book? That depends on whether you are ready to let go of the charm of the former to embrace the quirkiness of Ape House.
creynolds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disappointing followup to Water for Elephants. The parts with the apes was really good, but the rest of the story was formulaic and irritating. John, the journalist, and his wife Amanda's relationship drama took up way too much space in the novel and was especially annoying.
cmeilink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are some books you read and say "Wow, that was a good book," but then you move on and it's forgotten. Ape House is not one of those books that you can dismiss so easily.I liked everything about this book. Sara Gruen writes in such a way that you can actually see yourself among the bonobos, signing back and forth with them, laughing, and playing together.This story, about the communication and love between the bonobos and Isabel Duncan is a moving account of a new type of extended family. Isabel Duncan works with a group of bonobos at the Great Ape Language Lab until a mysterious fire at the facility causes the bonobos to be sold and sent away. As Isabel recovers from the fire, she struggles to find and be reunited with the bonobos and enlists the help of journalist, John Thigpen in her fight.Wonderful story...wonderful writing.I've also added Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants on my "to read" list.
msf59 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At a university research center in Kansas, there is a program featuring a group of bonobo apes, who have learned to communicate, through sign language. Leading this research is a scientist named Isabel Duncan. After a sudden bombing, at the facility, which seriously injured Duncan, the bonobos come up missing. Once Duncan recovers, she starts to search for her precious apes and soon learns they are being used in a new reality show, similar to the ¿Big Brother¿ series.This interesting, if unlikely, premise may have worked, if Gruen had stayed focused on the apes, but instead she keeps padding that story, with and endless array of meth-dealers, strippers, pitbulls and botox treatments, all of which, feel bloated and dull.I liked her previous book, [Water For Elephants] but this was a misfire.
imjustmea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Ape House, a touching story written by Sara Gruen of Water for Elephants fame, Isabel Duncan is a scientist that researches and cares for six bonobos at a research facility affiliated with a university. These bonobos are special because they are able to communicate with humans using American Sign Language. Shortly after a journalist visits the bonobos, the research facility is hit by a bomb that severely injures Isabella. While she¿s recuperating. the apes are sold and Isabella, normally reserved, finds herself reaching out to others to save the apes from exploitation.As with Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen delivers an entertaining novel that also educates the reader on aspects of animal cruelty. In this case, the treatment that apes receive at the hands of scientists at pharmaceutical companies. The book also touches on the amazing research being done by places such as the Great Ape Trust where scientists are studying language acquisition and other behavioural traits in bonobos, chimps, and orangutans.I really enjoyed reading about the bonobos and their individual personalities. I loved the Isabel Duncan character for her dedication to the bonobos which she describes as her family. My only complaint is that I found some of the characters in the book superfluous and a bit annoying. I found myself racing through these bits so that I could get back to the main bonobo-centric story-line. I was so engrossed with this book that I missed my bus stop while on my way home one evening.Overall, Ape House is an entertaining and captivating read that may inspire readers to learn more about the preservation and protection of the Great Apes.
dduning on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While not as fulfilling as "Water for Elephants," "Ape House" is an interesting tale that makes one wonder about the pull of reality TV on our society. Would we be as intrigued with watching communicative Bonobos as we are watching people on "Big Brother" or "Survivor?" It is a tale that helps remind us that all life is important and unique and it is never O.K. to take advantage of anyone, I mean, any animal.