Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ape House by Sara Gruen

Title: Ape House
Author: Sara Gruen
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.

Ape House on Goodreads
 Kala's Review:

I love Sara Gruen's previous three novels, but it took me a long time to even pick this one up at the library and I put off reading it. Something about the summary just didn't hook me and if I wasn't a fan of Sara, I probably would never have read it.

The book wasn't awful. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. I don't know if I can really explain why, either.

It started off great. I liked Isabel right away and the apes really steal the show with their distinct personalities and silly antics. The explosion and aftermath was heartbreaking and I found myself turning pages quickly.

Then Ape House started, and the book fell apart for me. I didn't find John nearly as compelling as Isabel and the apes. Amanda was totally unlikable and at this point the book seemed more focused on John and Amanda instead of Isabel and the apes, and that's where it lost me. John is bland and Amanda is so freaking emo I wanted to bitchslap her.

Based on the summary, I was expecting some sort of attraction between John and Isabel threatening his marriage, but that was really a non factor throughout the majority of the novel. Instead we get to read page after page about Amanda's emo depressiveness because her book didn't get published. John and Amanda were so hot and cold (and not in an interesting way), I felt like I was getting whiplash with the amount of times they were jerks to each other then apologizing to each other.

The ending of the book was okay, but it seemed too perfect and happy - a la Breaking Dawn where everyone gets everything they ever wanted and they all lived happily ever after. Don't get me wrong, I love a happily ever after - in fact I HATE books that don't have some kind of happy ending - but this one just seemed like overkill.

Like I said, I didn't hate the book, but I didn't love it either. I still am a big fan of Sara and will read whatever she publishes next, but I am hoping it's more along the lines of Water for Elephants instead of Ape House.
2 out of 5 stars.

Link to Kala's review on Goodreads:

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