Ape House: A Novel by Sara Gruen

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is my first Good Reads post, and I would like to start with a word of warning–I can be easily entertained.  In general, if it’s on a movie screen or a TV, I’m pretty much entertained.  I will not hand out recommendations for movies or TV shows–apparently, I have low standards for visual entertainment.  But, I am an avid and selective reader–I’m much better at forming an opinion about the things that I have to really invest in.  So, I thought from time-to-time I would share some of the better things I come across in case you want to read something good, too.  Okay, moving on.

On the way back from Austin this weekend, I was able to finish up Ape House by Sara Gruen.  I had the pleasure of seeing Sara (I hope she doesn’t mind that I just call her Sara) discuss the book at the DMA’s Arts & Letters Live earlier this year when I was only a couple of chapters in, luckily the ending was just as satisfying as I hoped it would be.

Disclaimer, I loved Water for Elephants, and I’m a sucker for the flash-forward ending in all genres of entertainment.  I love it in movies, television shows, and books; I can’t help it.  I know an ending should be enough, but sometimes it puts a piece over the top for me.  Those two things coupled with the great experience of the live reading may unduly sway me to say that I really enjoyed this book.

Non-spoiler synopsis:  A bonobo language lab blows up with one of the scientists, Isabel,  inside.  A reporter, John, has just completed his first report about the center when the event happens, making him feel tied to the story.  The novel interweaves the stories of Isabel as she heals and tries to find and recover the bonobos; John as he tries to hold his marriage and career together; and the bonobos as they try to figure out what’s going on when they’re taken by a very bad man who puts them on a reality TV show called Ape House.  The three stories intersect in touching and climactic ways, that had me turning the pages.

A little secret, (that will now very much not be a secret) I don’t normally dig animal books.  I didn’t get into Black Beauty as a little girl, and I’ve never been one to coo over animal-centric stories, so I had low expectations going into this one and Water for Elephants.  But Sara’s character development is so superb, that even I wanted to visit a bonobo by the end of the book.  She builds great tension throughout the book and just when you think the bad guys can’t get any badder, they go and do [that-thing-that-would-spoil-the-ending-so-I’m-not-actually-writing-it].

Ape House was a little slower out of the gate for me than Water for Elephants, but it picks up the pace after only a few chapters and it’s hard to put down in the last 100 pages.  Moral of the story: you don’t have to have always wanted a pet monkey to love Ape House.

Happy reading!


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