During one of my very brief waking hours last night/this morning, I finally finished Ape House, by Sara Gruen. Before I tell you what I thought of the book, I have to pat myself on the back a little, because:
- I hate monkeys and apes and whatever else is way too human-like to throw its poo.
That’s not why I’m patting myself on the back, though; I know my monkey hatred makes me kind of a jackass. I’m patting myself on the back because in spite of the fact that I do not like monkeys—and that I think chimpanzees are the worst—I have done these two monkey-related things BY CHOICE in the past month:
- I read Ape House. It’s about bonobo apes, which are similar to chimps.
- I use MailChimp as the mailing list service for our PTO news, and there are chimps on every single FA-REEKING page of that site.
I know, right? I’m growing up and gittin’ all mature ‘n stuff. (I’m not, really. I still do not like monkeys or monkey types.)
OK, so the premise of Ape House is a little bit sad and also kind of amusing: six bonobo apes escape a language lab after an explosion and suddenly appear on a 24-hour reality TV show in which people all over the world get to watch them function on their own. The book primarily centers around the people who sincerely care about getting the apes back to a safe place.
Major characters are well-developed; some minor characters are not, or they start to be and then pretty much disappear. I love that the apes’ personalities are described so thoroughly. One timely topic was the demise of printed newspapers, and as one of the main characters was a writer, it was significant. There were things that happened along the way that I kept waiting to be tied in to the overall plot, and some never were—it almost seemed like an editor said “It’s been more than 30 pages since something blew up or a scary person came to that character’s door. Fix it.” That part was strange, but otherwise the book was totally readable. One thing obvious is Sara Gruen’s love for animals, and that makes me think she’s all kinds of awesome.
I refuse to read books (or watch movies) in which I know an animal dies. SPOILER ALERT: no apes die in this story. Whew. There is a fish homicide though. Ye be warned.
Ape House wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but I think it takes a special writer to make someone like me actually care what happened to these apes in the end. Or maybe I cared because the story wasn’t published as a picture book. That would’ve grossed me out big-time.
I liked Water for Elephants—Sara Gruen’s third novel and a bestseller—very much; it was a fascinating story about the circus. As soon as I finished reading it, I got her two earlier novels (Riding Lessons and Flying Changes), and they were alright—not my favorite books ever, but they were about horses and I know very little about horses, so I didn’t enjoy them as much as I might have otherwise. After reading all four of Sara Gruen’s published novels, I think Water is still my favorite.