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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Tina
  • Columbus, IN, United States
  • 09-13-10

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 7 people found this review helpful

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good book, with a few tangents

I enjoyed this book, but felt that some of the plot went off in tangents that added little. For example, the whole meth lab story, what did that add? Though I did get a kick out of the Russian working girls! Excellent narration.
Overall enjoyable but not "Elephants".

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Potential unfulfilled

...more a story about the reporter John than the scientist Isabelle...mediocre character development....lost me after the explosion....finished only because it was our book group title

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Wonderful book

Wonderful and informative book. She is a great story teller. I wonder if it's based on a true story. Read it!

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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.

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  • Jamie
  • Nanaimo, BC, Canada
  • 04-09-12

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.

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  • Patti
  • Chittenango, NY, United States
  • 02-27-12

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.

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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?

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  • Glorianne
  • BOULDER, CO, United States
  • 01-21-12

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.

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  • Sharon
  • Yountville, California
  • 10-21-11

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??