I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I really wanted to like Gruen's third release, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. The setting was wonderful and I especially loved how Gruen framed the novel with the main character in a nursing home. However, I could not get past the fact that the main characters and their love triangle seemed to be lifted from Styron's SOPHIE'S CHOICE. The similarities were too overwhelming for me and it ruined the book for me. I know I'm in the minority on that one.
I did look forward to reading Gruen's latest offering, however. I appreciate Gruen's support of and affinity for animals and animal rights. APE HOUSE introduces scientist Isabel Duncan who works with bonobos in teaching them sign language. Isabel is very close with these primates and considers them families. When the Great Ape Language Lab is bombed and Isabel is injured, the apes are removed and sold to a reality show producer. The producer creates a new form of show called "Ape House" where the primates are televised 24 hours a day for entertainment purposes. Isabel works with reporter John Thigpen and various animal rights activists in order to free the bonobos and bring them to safety.
I appreciated the emphasis on the connection between people and animals and the added angle of reality television at the expense of the bonobos. However, I feel that the novel didn't go far enough. The human characters were fairly lackluster and the big twist wasn't that much of a twist. It felt as if there should have been MORE impact. Nothing was particularly surprising or relevatory.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. Fans of Gruen will be happy with her latest offering but it is somewhat disappointing that she didn't go further with the story. The whole thing felt a little lackluster.
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