A Recent Surge in Bonobo Novels

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  • Bonobo Conservation Initiative
That would be novels that involve bonobos, not novels written by bonobos. That day is yet to come.

Bonobos share more than 98 percent of our DNA, and might be best known for their pansexuality and "free love" society. And curiously enough, two Chicago-area authors have written new novels involving these particular great apes.

Lucy (Knopf), the debut novel of writer Laurence Gonzales (Deep Survival et al), is about a half-human, half-bonobo hybrid girl, the teenage titular Lucy, who's been raised in the Congo by her primatologist father but, due to tragic circumstances in the war-torn country, ends up in Chicago where she quite naturally struggles to fit in. (She has a lot more problems than your average teenager, let's just say.)

And Sara Gruen, author of the best-selling Water for Elephants, comes out with Ape House (Spiegel & Grau) in September, about a scientist who "doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos." (Here's a Reader profile of Gruen from June 2006.)

Gonzales was inspired by the bonobos he'd observed at the Milwaukee County Zoo. As part of her research, Gruen studied linguistics to help her communicate with the bonobos at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines.

I'd like to see them reviewed by Vanessa Woods, author of the recent Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo.

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