Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Club Review: Ape House (Chapters 1 - 12)

I was so excited for the book club Book Beginnings and Bookends to start back up in February. The book we are reading this month is Ape House by Sara Gruen. I had just finished her previous book Water for Elephants, which was amazing, see my review here, so I was excited to start her new book. So far it has been great, and I can't put it down, but I am trying to stick to the reading schedule so it is easier to post the questions and not spoil anything for the other readers.

So to give you a little background on the book, the book starts out with this reporter, John, for the Philadelphia Inquirer visiting The Great Ape Language Lab to see what they are currently doing with these bonobos (a great ape). It is amazing because these bonobos can speak in american sign language and have a two-way conversation, and were so much like humans. They liked M&Ms, and toys and to play games. They also built relationships with not only themselves, but their human friends as well.

After John returns home, an explosion goes off at the lab, and one of the lead scientists, Isabel, gets hurt, and the whole lab is just destroyed. The bonobos do escape unharmed, but they are scared and hiding in the trees outside the lab, and won't get down. We soon find that this was done by extreme animal rights activists and that they are threatening not only those working in the lab, but the president and others at the University of Kansas where this lab is located.

Right after the explosion takes place, John is flown back to the lab to research what had happened and get the story for the paper. One of his co-workers, who is very competitive and seems like a b$*ch, goes out there also, and starts getting sneaky, and getting more info than John, so John is quickly sent back home. I am curious to see how he gets back out there to break the case and find out really what happened, but I guess we will have to see what happens.


1. What was your initial reaction to the idea of a language lab with bonobos who are capable of having conversations with humans?

I thought this was very interesting and was amazed at what the bonobos could do. I thought it was so cool to hear about them having conversations and building relationships with humans. I was even more excited to hear this part was based on a true story and that the author had actually witnessed it, not just a made up part of the story.

2. Isabel said early in the book that the apes know they’re apes and know that humans are humans, but they don’t see any superiority with either…What do you think the major difference is between the two?

Obviously I think the apes are a little more na├»ve than humans are. They don’t understand the stresses and the situations of the world that humans go through. They probably do not see superiority because they would not know any better.

3. What are your thoughts on John and his feelings towards Isabel? How do you think their relationship will play out?

I am curious to see what happens with the two of them. I think they both are in slightly rocky relationships, so depending on how close they get to each other throughout the book, this could possibly cause their current relationships to break up, or at the very least struggle.

4. How do you think Isabel will respond to the apes being taken?

Well she certainly flipped out when she found out, which was understandable. I have a feeling she is going to try and find the apes, and figure out how to get them out of wherever they are.

5. Do you think Celia is part of the team that ambushed the learning center?

I sure hope not, but at this point who knows. I feel like Isabel really trusts her, and I don’t want to see her get hurt anymore than she is, so I hope that Celia doesn’t do anything to hurt her.

6. What are your thoughts on John and his relationship with Amanda?

For some reason I really like John and Amanda together, but I am not sure why. So right now I don’t want them to break up, but I have a feeling they are going to have some struggles throughout the story. Amanda has issues with self esteem, and John seems to have trust issues. I just wish John would find a way to help Amanda with her issues. I think he needs to step it up and be more of a man. I was really disappointed when he didn’t go after her that night she broke the news about the job in LA. He just stood there and ate the food she prepared, and didn’t comfort her. I understand he was upset, but she was so proud and he totally burst her bubble about her good news. I was proud of him the way he helped her deal with her parents and how he just took off with her to Kansas while her parents stood there in the driveway completely confused.


  1. I haven't heard of that book, but it sounds interesting! I'm still working through Water for Elephants. I haven't had time to finish it, but I really love it!

  2. I also LOVED how well John stood up to Amanda's parents!!! It was great!

  3. I just finished Water for Elephants, as well. I really liked your answer to #6. I really do like John and Amanda together although they haven't given us a lot of a reason why we should! Looking forward to see what happens with the story!! :)

  4. I thought it was cool, too, how this is based on a true story from the author.