Book Review: Ape House by Sara Gruen

Spiegel & Grau. Purchased online at The Book Depository

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.

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