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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 (313 )
5 star
 (62)
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3.5 (106 )
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1 star
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3.7 (107 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 09-10-10
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 09-10-10 Member Since 2003

    glam

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting Premise"

    The lives and loves of the Bonobo apes were appealing and compelling, especially, for the purposes of fiction, their use of ASL. The reality show "Ape House" was an awesome invention, and the reader couldn't help getting pulled in by the thoughts and behavior of the apes. But...and why does there have to be a "but"? The action just became too frenzied towards the end, too many change-ups, creating narrative whiplash. It's almost as if the novel was being tweaked by editors, and the real work by Sara Gruen is only there at the beginning. It's unfortunate that "Water for Elephants" was so good, as all Gruen's other novels will suffer by comparison, unless she comes up with something better. Which this novel was most definitely not, lacking the depth, detail, measured pace and multi-leveled characterization of the first novel. This book is definitely a good read, but it's primarily an "action" story, and nothing like "Water for Elephants", which is on another plane entirely.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mm 09-16-10
    mm 09-16-10 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not as good as her first book"

    While The Ape House presents some interesting concepts-communiation between the apes and humans-there is no comparison to Water for Elephants, which I absolutely loved and could listen to over and over again. At times, The Ape House is too wordy and drones on and on. Overall, this book was a disappointment.
    Janet in Carmel

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shelly Charlottesville, VA, United States 09-23-10
    Shelly Charlottesville, VA, United States 09-23-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Completely enjoyable and very funny."

    What a great parody on realiy TV and mother-in-laws! Very different from Water for Elephants, but equally entertaining and hopeful. It made me want to visit the apes and communicate with them. What is especially amusing is the thought that because apes can communicate, they must be like us. If you enjoy Michael Crighton's Jurrassic Park where humans think that they can control life, you will love this book as well.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Oklahoma City, OK, United States 09-16-10
    Carolyn Oklahoma City, OK, United States 09-16-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Such high hopes"

    I absolutely loved Water For Elephants. Sadly, Ape House can't hold a candle. I could never quite connect with any of the characters, in spite of the author's penchant for seriously tedious and minute detail all along the way. The plot is just compelling enough to keep one wondering how things will end up at last, but I found myself forwarding through the recording during the last two hours as I couldn't stand it dragging along any more. I just wanted to know what finally happened to the wretched apes! I'm afraid the narrator may also have driven me slightly mad during this book. Very precise diction (to the point of distraction) which somehow served to highlight the tedium of the descriptions, and some pronunciation which actually made me scream out loud at one point. Otherwise, he portrayed the characters nicely--it's just a timing-thing, I guess. Perhaps you will like this recording better than me, but if you're expecting something as fabulous as Water For Elephants you'll likely be dismayed. Gosh, I hate to be so negative, but this book just drove me nuts!

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea Santa Rosa, CA, United States 10-13-10
    Andrea Santa Rosa, CA, United States 10-13-10
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    "Poorly Read"

    I am only 1/3 of the way through the audio-book and although I will probably finish it, it is tempting to go buy the printed version instead and be spared the horrible recording. The reader emphasizes some words inappropriately and I get the impression it was his first read through. His voice is fine, but flat and not a good fit for this book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Denise 09-20-10
    Denise 09-20-10
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    "I wish I had read these reviews"

    I will as kindly as possible suggest to Mr. Boehmer that in the future he only read books with male characters, and that insipid and whiny does not equal female. The women's voices are horrible and very distracting - so distracting that I'm not even sure whether my disappointment in the story is because of the story or the reading..

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 01-12-12
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 01-12-12 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not what I expected"

    This one leaves me feeling kind of flat. I'm not sure if my disappointment is due to my expectations of it having the apes play more of a central role, or if it really was just a matter of the story not really "clicking" for me. The storyline was "ok", the narrator was good, but overall I can't find any part of it that I would say I thoroughly enjoyed.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale A. Boyd Chesterfield, MO United States 12-23-10
    Dale A. Boyd Chesterfield, MO United States 12-23-10 Member Since 2001

    Dale A Boyd

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointing"

    This book held a lot of promise. Sara Gruen's novel Water For Elephants was excellent. However, this book was a disappointment. The reader had great difficulty pronouncing basic words. The story line was contrived and the ending obvious early on. The book also attempted to develop several different story lines. The only redeeming quality was the Bonobos. Should have worked on developing that more and given up on many of the other tangents. Don't waste your time or your money!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tiffany Corona, CA, United States 09-30-10
    Tiffany Corona, CA, United States 09-30-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Disappointing"

    Like others have said, if you are buying this based on the strength of Water for Elephants (as I was), then skip it. It's just another average novel with apes as the hook. Just a few minutes into it I had a feeling it was never going to measure up to Gruen's first book but I kept hoping it would get better.

    I did not care for the narrator, especially when he made all of the younger characters in the story sound like Snake from the Simpsons. What kind of a weird accent is that anyway? There is too much needless detail about things unimportant to the story, and too much buildup to an anticlimactic ending. I'm always interested in human animal communication and I liked that aspect, but the overall story wasn't at all what I thought it would be. I hope Gruen writes something else like her first novel as that is right up there with my favorite books.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 09-20-10
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 09-20-10 Member Since 2005

    Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.

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    "Just OK"

    Once you set the bar with a book like Water for Elephants, it is hard to surpass it. Ape House had potential, but ended up being too much about the humans and not enough about the Bonobos.
    The story revolves around two couples, a journalist John Thigpen and his wife Amanda, a book author. The other couple is Isabel Duncan and Peter, boyfriend and girlfriend. Isabel is a scientist and the human connection to the Bonobos at the Great Ape language Lab. The apes all have their own unique personalities and attachments to her. As the story progresses it brings these two couples together. Can’t say how without revealing spoilers. I really enjoyed the part about these great apes, but there just wasn’t enough of it. The story about the humans, overshadowed the reason I was interested in this book in the first place…the bonobos, because of their ability to communicate with humans using ASL (American Sign Language) and computers. I have to admit to being disappointed.
    After Water For Elephants I expected a much more complex and magical story from Sarah Gruen with this fascinating subject!
    The narrator Paul Boehmer was excellent. He certainly added some depth to the characters, even the apes!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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