Woohoo! This is my first time to join in on the discussion for the blogging book club Book Beginnings & Bookends :) This month we're reading Sara Gruen's Ape House. Check out my answers to the first set of discussion questions below.
1. What was your initial reaction to the idea of a language lab with bonobos who are capable of having conversations with humans?
I was fascinated to read about the bonobos communicating with humans through American Sign Language. I wanted to be with John Thigpen when he got to visit the lab and experience this first-hand! Even though I thought the bonobos and the work done at the lab was very interesting, I was a little disturbed by how attached Isabel was to the bonobos. She calls them her family and has their pictures all over her apartment! It almost seems that she has let her "relationships" with the bonobos replace human relationships, and that just isn't healthy. I think that she's too close to them- emotionally and physically. I was also a little disturbed that the bonobos seemed to order the humans around at the lab. It was kind of like the bonobos were royalty and the humans were their servants - rushing to fetch them anything they wanted.
2. Isabel said early in the book that the apes know they're apes and know that the humans are humans, but they don't see any superiority with either... What do you think the major difference is between the two?
The bonobos are mainly concerned with satisfying their apetites - food, sex, etc. - as much as possible. They don't show the restraint that humans do.
3. What are your thoughts on John and his feelings toward Isabel? How do you think their relationship will play out?
John only spent a few hours with Isabel so I would think that his feelings for her would only be a physical attraction. The author seems to indicate in several points, though, that there's more to these feelings or that something further will develop between these two. I'm disappointed in this aspect of the story because John seems to genuinely love his wife, and the author seems to foreshadow that his marriage is eventually going to collapse and he's going to end up with Isabel. I'm hoping that's not the case!
4. How do you think Isabel will respond to the apes being taken?
I think she's going to be utterly disconsolate since she considers them to be her family. I think that she's going to stop at nothing to get them back.
5. Do you think Celia is part of the team that ambushed the learning center?
I don't think so. I think that she's too obvious a choice to be the real villain. I think that she's going to be instrumental in helping Isabel find the bonobos.
6. What are your thoughts on John and his relationship with Amanda?
John is very supportive of Amanda. He really wants the best for her and tries to make that happen. He has also been very patient with her as she struggles with depression. I feel some sympathy for Amanda because I can only imagine how difficult it would be to deal with the failure of a first book and all of those rejection notices for a second book! But I also think that she's being selfish moving out to LA to work on a risky project and leaving her husband behind in Philadelphia. She seems to place her needs ahead of John's needs and is willing to sacrifice their relationship to further her career. I think that at some point in the book John is going to burn out, and there's going to be a crisis in their marriage.