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Ape House: A Novel Paperback – Large Print, Sep 7 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Large Print; Lrg edition (Sept. 7 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739328042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739328040
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #793,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Quill & Quire

Driven by a plot that defies convention, Sara Gruen’s Ape House is captivating. Her follow-up to the 2007 bestseller Water for Elephants is another story about animals, though its strikingly realized human characters turn out to be the main attraction.

Journalist John Thigpen, on assignment at a university language lab, is awed by his encounters with its resident bonobo apes. The bonobos communicate with people using sign language, convey complex ideas among themselves, and seem practically human in how they interact with the world. John is also struck by scientist Isabel Duncan, whose connection with the apes is so intense she considers them her family.

That family is torn apart, however, when an explosion destroys the lab the night after John’s visit. A radical animal rights group claims responsibility, Isabel is seriously injured, and the university quietly sells the bonobos to an anonymous buyer. Weeks later, when the animals appear on television as stars of a reality show called Ape House, John and Isabel begin working independently to uncover the truth behind the explosion and rescue the apes.

Gruen’s novel has resonance beyond its animal themes. She highlights the dismal state of American media – John’s job is under threat as the newspaper business crumbles, his colleagues resort to extremes to garner readership, and his wife is a literary novelist who finds herself writing for television in an era when a show about apes ordering pizza is considered the height of entertainment.

The story gets a bit crowded by the climax, but Gruen reins it in just in time. She deserves further credit for successfully integrating fact into her fiction: the language lab is based on an actual facility where the author did considerable research, but the science underlies the novel rather than overwhelming it.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Consider reality TV, meth labs, over-the-top animal-rights activists, Botox, tabloids and Internet diatribes, and you, too, might come to the conclusion: People should be more like animals. Sara Gruen’s entertaining, enlightening new novel will certainly leave you thinking so.”—Miami Herald 
 “Propulsive...Gruen writes with the commercial breathlessness of a cozier Dan Brown.”—Entertainment Weekly  
“Gruen delivers a tale that’s full of heart, hope, and compelling questions about who we really are.”—Redbook

“Animal lovers, gather ‘round...[Ape House] is much better [than Water for Elephants]—funny because of some weird characters and circumstances that make life difficult for our intrepid reporter, and at the same time, compelling because those apes put to shame our beloved Homo sapiens.”—Newark Star Ledger 
“Part expose, part thriller, part gothic romance and part comedy and farce...Gruen is a master at the popular novel plot.”—Asheville Citizen Times
“Gruen is clearly enjoying herself here. It is fun...the conceit of a household of language-­endowed apes as the ne plus ultra of reality TV — leering humans greedy for profits and naughty thrills...apes who are at once innocent and more compassionate and dignified than the producers and the viewers — is terrific: an incisive piece of social commentary.”—New York Times Book Review

"[Ape House] hums along with a pop-culture plot full of slick profiteers, sleazy pornographers, idiotic reality TV and gossip rags — with botox and ape sex thrown in for entertaining reading.”—Des Moines Register

“Gruen has a knack for pacing and for creating distinctive animal characters. Scenes involving the bonobos are winsome without being sappy, and the reader comes to share Isabel’s concern for the animals.”—Boston Globe 

"Gruen’s astute, wildly entertaining tale of interspecies connection is a novel of verve and conscience.”—Booklist (Starred review)

"Has the dramatic tension of a crime thriller...Twists and turns, lies, and treachery abound in this funny, clever, and perceptive story."—Library Journal (Starred review)

"Sara Gruen knows things—she knows them in her mind and in her heart. And, out of what she knows, she has created a true thriller that is addictive from its opening sentence. Devour it to find out what happens next, but also to learn remarkable and moving things about life on this planet. Very, very few novels can change the way you look at the world around you. This one does."—Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife
"I read Ape House in one joyous breath. Ever an advocate for animals, Gruen brings them to life with the passion of a novelist and the accuracy of a scientist. She has already done more for bonobos than I could do in a lifetime. The novel is immaculately researched and lovingly crafted. If people fall in love with our forgotten, fascinating, endangered relative, it will be because of Ape House."—Vanessa Woods, author of Bonobo Handshake

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 9 2010
Format: Audio CD
Another story by the estimable author of 'Water For Elephants,' Sara Gruen, deserves a first class narrator, which is precisely what is found in Bill Boehmer. A seasoned stage and television actor he delivers an articulate, highly listenable reading.

There is a group of bonobos, Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani and Makena by name, who are living at a university's Great Ape Language Lab. Now, while all apes may be unique these bonobos truly are - not only can they reason and have meaningful relationships but they're also able to communicate by American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan is a scientist at the Lab working with the bonobos. She is more than content at the Lab as she feels more comfortable with the bonobos than with other human beings. However tranquility is broken when there's an explosion seriously injuring Isabel. Further, the bonobos have vanished only to reappear starring in a reality television program, Ape House.

Prior to the explosion a newspaper reporter, John Thigpen, had been putting together a story about what was happening in the Lab. But the explosion followed by the humiliating exploitation of the bonobos changes everything not only for him but also for Isabel as the two join forces to bring the bonobos home.

A remarkable story.

- Gail Cooke
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By Hana on Oct. 13 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is interesting, yet confusing, reading. First of all, the apes are much more pleasant and understandable than the main human characters.
Moreover I felt more and more disconcerted as I kept reading.
There were two reasons for my feelings: first, if the apes can communicate with people by ASL, like deaf children, then where is the difference between humans and other hominids? The question is even articulated in the reader's guide. The authoress quite correctly describes what it is like, but doesn't even hint that the difference is in the absence of grammar in the ape's speech, which deaf humans eventually develop in ASL.
Another problem was the strangeness of the main protagonists. John is the total servant of his spoiled wife, whose change happens too quickly and is too complete. He is also a do-gooder, who has not noticed that the mutual bank account was depleted.
Isabel I didn't understand at all. She is not approachable, unless you are an ape. She fancies John, and then suddenly, it is Gary. And everyone has had a bad childhood.
I liked the youngsters: the prostitutes, Russian or otherwise, and the green-haired teenage criminal.
When a writer deals with such an important topic, in which some scientific background is needed, then he/she owes more explanation to the readers.
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By Kimberly Evans on July 6 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this for my father, and he enjoyed it very much. Not quite as good as Water for Elephants, though!
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By dennisharry on March 6 2012
Format: Paperback
Yet another great book from Sara Gruen. A fascinating subject, with a wonderfully fast paced story woven around it. One of those books that I didn't want to end.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER on Nov. 15 2010
Format: Hardcover
Bonzi, Makena, Sam, Lola, Jelani, and Mbongo are Bonobo apes who live in luxury at the Great Ape Language Lab under the careful eye of Isabel Duncan a scientist. These apes are able to reason, carry on relationships and can communicate with humans through American Sign Language. They are extremely intelligent animals.

A reporter named John Thigpen comes to Isabel's lab to see and interview both Isabel and the Bonobo's as an interest piece for his newspaper. Little did John and Isabel know that this particular piece was going to turn out to be the biggest story of their entire lives.

An serious and highly damaging explosion at the lab severely injures Isabel and the apes go missing until a reality television show featuring the missing Bonobos airs on t.v. Millions of people are literally glued to their t.v. sets watching the everyday lives of the apes. They order greasy take-out, eat hamburgers one after the other totally ruining their careful diet that was fed to them at the Language Lab. They are also signing on t.v. for Isabel to come and get them, but where are they?

Once out of the hospital, Isabel now sets out to find who has the apes and where they are being housed but it won't be easy. She is forced to get mixed up with some pretty sleazy people. Will Isabel ever find her beloved Bonobos?

Sara Gruen has written another mesmerizing story that will keep you turning page after page. For those of you who read Sara's other novel: "Water for Elephants" won't be disappointed with this one either. This is a novel that everyone should read!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. Shulman on Sept. 27 2010
Format: Paperback
I love Sara Gruen's fluid writing style; not one excess word, not one excess sentence - everything is streamlined like a river flowing right through the narrative to the end. It's a page-turner, but I will warn you about this: there are some parts that I found very hard to read because I am an animal lover. What kept me going was the knowledge that so is Sara Gruen.

Sara Gruen knows how animals are exploited and believe me, she does not spare any details about the exploitation and miserable confined lives of apes and chimpanzees in this book. Nor does she spare any detail about the diabolical plans of people who aim to grow rich by causing pain and suffering to animals.

Which is why, if you love animals, you should read it, and pass it along to everyone you know so that awareness can grow about just why the time has come for a full-blown global discussion on the way humans and their corporations treat animals.

Like Water for Elephants, this book will not leave you once you've read it. It will become part of you. Even as I write this review, and recall the passages about apes in confinement, my stomach lurches and I want to cry.

Nevertheless I give this book the highest possible recommendation. Once you start, you can't put it down. Even as your heart aches, you have to continue reading. Sara Gruen's writing is magical like that. And there is so much to learn from what she has learned about apes and their amazing abilities to communicate. Not to mention their dizzying ability to love. We humans have a lot to learn.
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