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Ape House
Cover of Ape House
Ape House
A Novel
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 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...
 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...
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Description-

  •  
    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.

 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book

    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...

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.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Sara Gruen's APE HOUSE sets interpersonal--and inter-species--relationships against a dramatic backdrop of animal rights and reality television. Both Gruen and narrator Paul Boehmer are at their best when describing the bonobos and their interactions with the people around them, particularly their caregiver, Isabel, whose point of view, along with that of reporter John Thigpen, informs the majority of the story. The two main secondary characters are women, and Boehmer's voicing of these two, in particular, leaves something to be desired. Both are exaggerated, with Isabelle's assistant, Celia, having a grating and oddly pronounced accent. His weaknesses in conveying the femininity of the three women drifts into the rest of his delivery, leaving the majority of the narration sounding unconvincing. J.L.K. (c) AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 5, 2010
    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.

  • Miami Herald

    "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."

  • Entertainment Weekly "Propulsive...Gruen writes with the commercial breathlessness of a cozier Dan Brown."
  • Redbook "Gruen delivers a tale that's full of heart, hope, and compelling questions about who we really are."
  • Newark Star Ledger "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."
  • Asheville Citizen Times "Part expose, part thriller, part gothic romance and part comedy and farce...Gruen is a master at the popular novel plot."
  • New York Times Book Review "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."
  • Des Moines Register "[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."
  • Boston Globe "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."
  • Booklist (Starred review) "Gruen's astute, wildly entertaining tale of interspecies connection is a novel of verve and conscience."
  • Library Journal (Starred review) "Has the dramatic tension of a crime thriller...Twists and turns, lies, and treachery abound in this funny, clever, and perceptive story."
  • Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife "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."
  • Vanessa Woods, author of Bonobo Handshake "
    "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."

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