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Ape House: A Novel | [Sara Gruen]

Ape House: A Novel

Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Sara Gruen (P)2010 Random House

What the Critics Say

"While the set-up may sound improbable, Gruen’s characters – both human and ape – are finely drawn and ultimately believable. Gruen’s research into the use of American Sign Language as a means of communicating with the bonobos informs her story (and the reader) without weighing it down. This is a satisfying, entertaining page-turner of a novel." (San Francisco Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (314 )
5 star
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3.7 (109 )
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  •  
    Valerie Martinsville, IN, United States 09-24-10
    Valerie Martinsville, IN, United States 09-24-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Too much filler"

    The story was ok but there were so many extraneous details (who cares how seedy the hotel room was or how overbearing mom is?) that I ended up skipping to the last few chapters - I don't think I missed much in between.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Winston Salem, NC, United States 09-24-10
    William Winston Salem, NC, United States 09-24-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very disappointing"

    Because I so enjoyed "Water for Elephants" I was looking forward to this book, and the premise seemed fascinating. But "Ape House" is weak and forgettable.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tina Columbus, IN, United States 09-13-10
    Tina Columbus, IN, United States 09-13-10 Member Since 2007
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    "Boring. The narrator drones on and on."

    What a waste of a credit. A real disappointment. The premise holds promise but, for me, did not deliver. A little like a boring Robin Cook or Michael Crighton.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie 08-27-12
    Bonnie 08-27-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Funny, compassionate, entertaining, educational"

    For a minute at the beginning I thought I smelled a gushy romance. Thank God I was wrong. I read Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” so I should have known better.

    This was a story of the bonobos, a primate I had never known about until now. I loved the detailed descriptions of their language learning, their distinct personalities and interpersonal relationships amongst themselves, their environments and human associates.

    As a mystery, the book had many twists and turns but it was also compassionate, entertaining, and very educational. It made me want to meet the hilarious bonobos.

    Like “Water for Elephants” I would recommend this book to all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie Nanaimo, BC, Canada 04-09-12
    Jamie Nanaimo, BC, Canada 04-09-12
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    "Not the same."

    This book was recommended by a friend who said it was "okay". I thought I'd give it a chance because I read Water for Elephants and really enjoyed that story. I figured this story would be similar. This book was so brutal that I've actually blocked out the story from memory....I don't even remember what happens past the initial beginning (*the beginning was well done, I thought it had potential), but I have no idea how it ended, quite frankly, I don't care. Not impressed with this and would not recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 02-27-12
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 02-27-12 Member Since 2003
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    "One Hit Author"

    This is the 3rd book of Sara Gruen's that I have read. Obviously, Water for Elephants was the best. Riding Lessons was the worst and this was inbetween. I did not see good character development. There are a high number of insignificant side issues that add nothing to the story: a meth lab that blows up, a possible illegitimate child, family issues galore. None are developed to much detail.

    The female characters seem to be weak and wimpy. Both lead females crumble in terror and become helpless in times of stress. Although they each come out of it, evidence of this "woose" factor remains visible. It does not make them endearing people.

    Where there could (and should) have been a lot of danger and suspense surrounding the end of the book, especially due to all the side issues, there wasn't. It is such a dud.

    Then there is the narration. The timing, or pauses, are infuriating. Female voices are insulting. The punk kids sound more like brahmins than street smart characters. None of it meshes with the story line.

    I really was looking forward to this book. I heard Ms. Gruen speak after the success of WFE. But this just wasn't a worthy result. Even the adorable bonobos could not salvage this wreck.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 02-04-12
    Jennifer 02-04-12
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    "Elephants=outstanding... Apes=Rubbish!!!"
    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I cannot stress how dissappointing this book was! Water for elephants is in my top ten and I was looking forward to this story, but I wish I never wasted my time! The characters are weak, story predictable and lack luster, and narrrator annoying. I had to force myself to finish it. Need I say more?


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glorianne BOULDER, CO, United States 01-21-12
    Glorianne BOULDER, CO, United States 01-21-12 Member Since 2006

    gloworm

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting premise, thin characters"

    I like the premise of this novel: a group of apes become the ultimate reality TV stars and captivate their audience. The "ape house" interludes are the most interesting parts of the book. It became clear very quickly, however, that the characters were paper thin. The female scientist was saintly; the male scientist was cartoonishly evil. Also, the narration of this book drove me absolutely crazy. I almost quit listening an hour into the novel because the narrator inexplicably gives the young woman character an exaggerated "valley girl" accent. It was beyond distracting - it was annoying and not indicated by the text at all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Yountville, California 10-21-11
    Sharon Yountville, California 10-21-11 Member Since 2010
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    "An author I've added to my MUST read list."

    I truly enjoyed Water for Elephants and so I was anxious to read this book, also written by Sara Gruen. And she didn't disappoint. I like her characters very much, and am glad there were no relationship cliches to have to forgive. The research was great and the story refreshingly different. What will be next from her??

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A Concerned Reader Wine Country, USA 05-03-11
    A Concerned Reader Wine Country, USA 05-03-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Disappointed as well"

    I agree with many of the other low reviews, this book doesn't hold a candle to "Water for Elephants", almost seems like it was from another author. The characters cut from cardboard, the narrative predictable and trite - I could listen with "one ear" and still follow it because I knew where we were going. Gruen relies heavily on characters cut from cloth that's familiar to the reader and props them up with insipid dialogue. The story is interesting in a Michael Crichton-esque way, but doesn't even have his writing ability behind it (and that's saying something).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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