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Title: Ape House

Writer: Sara Gruen

Publisher:Two Roads (2011)

Pages: 367 p

Bought at: Periplus Plaza Indonesia (IDR 80k)


Six bonobos, great apes who are originally from Africa, being research subjects and stay in a laboratory in Kansas University. There, they could communicate in sign language with the scientists and live not a too different life than a human’s life. Isabel Duncan is a scientist who already worked with the bonobos for several years, and she loves them more than she loves her non-existent family.

One day, bad thing happened. The laboratory had been attacked by a group of hardcore animal activists who wanted to free the bonobos into the wild. Isabel was hurt in that incident and the bonobos were sent away by the university. Their interesting life is now could be watched in television, as a part of a crazy reality show.

John Thigpen, a journalist who once covered the story about bonobos are trying so hard to get the story about this bonobos new life. And it’s not easy, since he has to deal with his bitchy colleague, office politics, depressing wife and demanding in-laws, not to mention the bad economy, and his growing warmth toward Isabel.

Sara Gruen captured my heart completely with her previous novel, Water for Elephants. It has the whole package: great characters, nice setting, sweet romance with historical background, and of course, the animals. Sadly, I didn’t feel all of those elements in Ape House, besides the animals, of course. The story is interesting, especially about bonobos and their resemblance with humans. I didn’t even know about bonobos before, so this fact alone is actually one of the reasons why I picked up this book (other than it’s written by Sara Gruen!).

But the other elements, well, they’re a bit blah. They’re okay, but not outstanding. I like John and Isabel. And luckily there is no unnecessary plot about love affair or something like that. Unfortunately the plot is too predictable. It’s really bland, without any spices that can keep you excited til the last pages. The funny thing is there was a part in the book when John was thinking about his wife’s novel, which is not that successful. He thought there’s something missing from that novel, there’s nothing that could blow him away. And that’s exactly how I feel about THIS book! Nothing blown me away for sure. The only interesting things are the bonobos, and I guess Sara Gruen played a little bit too much with them in this novel, without giving the plots and other characters the same chance to develop.

The difficult thing about a best selling authors is people will always expect so much from them. And although Water for Elephants was not Gruen’s debut novel, people will always associate her with that book. Can you imagine how JK Rowling feels about her up coming novel after Harry Potter? =D

Sara Gruen is a writer who lives in the United States. Her first novel, Riding Lessons, is a story about horses and the intimate relationships between animals and humans. Her second novel, Flying Changes, is still about horses. Water for Elephants became her best selling work, and it has been adapted to a major motion picture with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson as the leading roles. Sara is a devoted animal lover and loyal supporter of many animal and wildlife organizations. She even lives with horses, cats, dogs, and a goat. Take a guess which animals she chose for her next book!

Sara interacted with a bonobo ape in The Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa