Tue November 16, 2010
What If a Bunch of Stolen Laboratory Apes Suddenly Appeared as the Stars of a Reality TV Show? Welcome to Sara Gruen's "Ape House: A Novel"
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – On this edition of StudioTulsa, we speak with author Sara Gruen, whose "Water for Elephants" novel was one of the most widely acclaimed works of fiction to appear in America in recent years. Now, Gruen is back with a new novel, "Ape House," which delivers a great deal of adventure and entertainment as well as ample cultural commentary and social criticism. As one starred review (from the pages of Booklist; written by the critic Donna Seaman) has noted: "Gruen's respect and love for animals fuels her fiction, most famously her bestselling novel 'Water for Elephants' (2006). Her fourth ensnaring tale features our close relatives, bonobos --- exceptionally intelligent and casually sensual great apes. When we first meet the mischievous Bonzi, Sam, Mbongo, Makena, Lola, and Jelani, they are happily ensconced in a cheerful research facility where they request their favorite foods, romp, use computers, watch movies, and converse with humans using American Sign Language. Scientist Isabel considers the bonobos her family and would do anything for them, even after she is nearly killed when the lab is bombed. The fate of the bonobos is a brilliantly satirical surprise. Suffice it to say that Isabel's harrowing battle to rescue the apes involves a porn king and is interlaced with the hilarious misadventures of a once A-list newspaper reporter now reduced to working for a tabloid, while his thwarted novelist wife endures insulting inanities as she attempts to launch a sitcom. Rooted in true horror stories of the abuse of research animals and the astonishing discoveries made at the real-life Great Ape Trust [in Iowa], Gruen's astute, wildly entertaining tale of interspecies connection is a novel of verve and conscience."