Book Review: Sara Gruen’s ‘Ape House’

My friends and family say I’m a slow reader. Someone is always waiting on me to finish a book. I’m one of those “one chapter a night” people nowadays. (What?! I have a 3 year old for cryin’ out loud!) I’m happy to say that this was not the case with Ape House and the book left my hands after just 3 nights. This should be the criteria for a Top 10 list – the faster I read it, the higher up on the list it goes. Ape House will be building a nest at the top of my list, and surely all of the legitimate Top 10s within a week. I’d put money on that – in fact, I’m gonna run down the street and check Green Valley Ranch Casino sports book to see if that’s a wager! ;)

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So Ape House, oh how I love thee, let me count the ways. Let me just say that I had zero idea what to expect when I opened up the package from Random House and clutched the coveted advanced reader copy in my grubby paws. I loved Water for Elephants, but I didn’t know if this would be another period piece or what a book about apes would really be about. The circus sounds a lot more exciting than the apes, but as I passed chapter 11 I realized I was in for a treat! It was a different kind of circus without being about a circus at all! And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot because I definitely don’t want to spoil the twist for anyone. But I will say it is full of action. You know how you read a book and it’s like one action scene after the next? Kinda like Da Vinci Code is action action action? That’s this book. It’s hard to put down and you develop a genuine concern for the characters.

Now the thing that is a refreshing carryover from Water for Elephants to Ape House is Sara Gruen’s rich character and scene descriptions. After learning about each character I started to “cast” them in my mind so that I could visualize my characters throughout the book. I’ll share my cast with you later. But I really loved the way Sara gave me a clear mental picture of each character and each setting. She’s so great at that. And her characters say stuff that I say, like “shut your pie hole,” and of course that made my night the night I read that chapter. Oh and Twilight fans, a head’s up: the main character’s name is Isabel – but she’s no Bella! This Isabel is a woman’s woman, a real fighter.

A Baby Bonobo - awww

I think what I loved most about the book were the apes – duh! It was refreshing to read a book and really learn something. The apes in Ape House are actually bonobos. I had previously never even heard the word bonobo. Well, the bonobos are a lot like you and me. Hell, I’d rather be besties with some of the bonobos than some of the “friends” I have here in Vegas. I fell in love with the bonobos and I admit, I was SO SCARED that I was going to have another Marley and Me moment, but thank God there was a happy ending in store for all the bonobos.

So the bonobos are very smart and they communicate with each other and with the humans using sign language (ASL means American Sign Language) and this special computer full of lexigrams (symbols). This is for real people, this actually happens in everyday life! I had no idea, and I’m sure the majority of folks that read the book will have had no prior idea of the reality either. And the reality is great because with awareness comes tolerance and “humanizing” the bonobos could lead to better conservation efforts and more money for research.

My favorite bonobo is Bonzi. She’s the head B(onobo) in charge, and I relate to her the most because I am the alpha-female in my own nest. After reading several chapters, I totally fell in love with Bonzi and I wanted her to build me a nest so I could get to know everyone and play chase and snuggle and pick fake bugs out of each other’s hair.

So I will leave you with this: buy the book and escape to bonobo world for a few hours. Fall in love with the bonobos like I did! I promise you will not be sorry. As a bonobo would say, “Good book, go hurry, read, happy.”

My Ape House movie-in-my-mind cast:

  • Isabel – Gwyneth Paltrow
  • John – Ben Affleck
  • Peter -Liev Schreiber
  • Cat –  Tina Fey
  • Celia – Pink
  • Amanda – Rebecca Mader
  • Faulks –  Al Pacino


Discussion – who is your favorite bonobo from Ape House?

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2 Responses to Book Review: Sara Gruen’s ‘Ape House’

  1. deb24601 says:

    Gah! I can’t wait to read it *runs out to mail box* Nope not here yet! Awesome review Jen, glad you enjoyed it so much. :)

  2. Katie says:

    Just finished Ape House lastnight (or I should say very early this morning lol) because I couldn’t bear to put down. Both Sara’s book are in my top ten list of favorites now. My favorite’s of the bonobos were the guys :) especially Mbongo. I liked how he had his on opinion about John and then stuck to it no matter what. So much like the human men in my life! Of the human’s my favorite was Celia. What a vivid and funny character! Love your dream cast too, especially Pink, she would so own that role. Peter though, I see him in my mind as darker and greasier in a too much hairgel kind of way. He’d need to be clean and educated looking but with the obvious perviness seething just under his skin. I so hope we get the chance to see this on the big screen!

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