And now your opportunity to win your own copy of the novel:Ape House is Sara Gruen's fourth novel, and her follow up to the massive success Water for Elephants which I read in August. In Ape House a university language research lab which focuses on communicating with six Bonobo apes who can understand English and speak using American Sign Language is bombed. Researcher Isabel is in the lab when eco-terrorists bomb it and as a result Isabel is gravely injured and the university sells the apes who latter turn up on a reality TV show called Ape House. The same day as the bombing, John a journalist from the Philadelphia inquirer was visiting to interview about the research going on. He quickly becomes interested in the subsequent events only to have the story stolen from him by a colleague- a fact which doesn't stop John from pursuing the truth. As sidelines to the ape story, Gruen also tells the story of John and his writer wife as well as Isabel's relationship with her boss. However what really connects both main characters is the fact that although they may have different motives both Isabel and John are determined to find out who is responsible for the bombing and how to get the apes back- whatever it takes.
Despite enjoying Water for Elephants, somehow I still was surprised by how much I loved Ape House. This probably stemmed from the fact that the two novels are extremely different. By really focusing on the apes Gruen tells a tender and realistic story which may not result in many literary accolades, it is not quite as dense or vivid as Water for Elephants, but certainly is a worthwhile read. The plot basis for Ape House was extremely different than Water for Elephants- I definitely didn't expect a criminal storyline, but it is something Gruen handles with remarkable ease. The characters sometimes veer towards caricatures (though not nearly as much as they did in Water for Elephants) especially John's wife who is a female trying to fit into Hollywood through use of botox and going blonde. The strongest characters in Ape House are definitely the apes- each of whom have distinct and adorable personalities. Gruen was able to visit the Great Ape Trust who inspired the research lab in the novel, and her ability to incorporate true stories and details like she once did with circus life, are what make the book truly unique and interesting.Overall, I enjoyed the majority of the book better than Water for Elephants, but the ending wrapped up a little too well making it slightly unrealistic and my least favourite portion of the novel. The final pages also began to veer on educational and preachy in comparison to the rest of the book. However Ape House is definitely a book with mass appeal- it has something in it for animal lovers, for people who enjoy a mystery, and even a little relationship drama. But most importantly Ape House leaves the the reader with the feeling that not only are the Bonobos Isabel's family, by the end of the book they feel like your family too.
In order to enter to win a copy of Ape House you must be a follower and leave a comment letting me know if there has ever been an animal in your life you considered family like Isabel treats the apes. Make sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win, after which you will have 48 hours to claim the prize. You can spread the word for a second entry, just make sure to leave a separate comment with a link. This giveaway will run until April 5th 2011 at 11:59 MST and is open to Canada, no PO boxes. Remember there will be TWO winners. Enjoy!