Isabel Duncan is a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab and her best, maybe only, friends appear to be the six bonobo apes with which she is currently working. The apes have been taught to communicate using American Sign Language, and she is studying and documenting their ability to express human-like emotions when a devastating explosion destroys the lab, critically injuring her and freeing the apes. A reporter who had visited the lab before the explosion, John Thigpen, is sent to cover the story of the explosion and he forms an alliance with Isabel to locate and reclaim the apes. While it seems that animal rights activists are responsible for the explosion, that may not be the case, since the apes have now mysteriously appeared on TV as the stars of a new reality show called Ape House. The bonobos are highly sexual beings and the new show reveals their incessant sex acts to TV viewers on a "round the clock" basis. America is spellbound by the bonobos' explicit antics, but Isabel and John, fearful for the apes' well-being, know they are in danger and frantically try to determine where they are being held and how to rescue them.
John has a wife and Isabel a fiancÚ, and they are not romantically interested in each other, but there is an underlying sexual tension in their relationship as they deal with their feelings for their mates. Isabel's injuries necessitate facial reconstruction, giving her a new appearance and causing her to consider revamping her personal life as well as her looks. John's temporary on-assignment residence in a cheap motel inhabited by hookers gives him some humorous and possibly life-altering experiences as he writes his feature articles.
Sara Gruen's treatment of the demonstrated language skills of the bonobos is evidence of extensive research into animal behavior. The bonobos' ability to communicate needs and emotions through sign language is fascinating and will cause readers to consider the similarities between other different animal species and human beings. With its data about ape behavior embedded in an absorbing story with a unique, but believable plot and with strong, sympathetic characters, Ape House is a very entertaining audio book. Highly recommended.
Ape House by Sara Gruen
Read by Paul Boehmer
Random House Audio, unabridged: 11 hours on 9 CDs