Ape House by Sara Gruen

From the Amazon.com description:

Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships — but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets — especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside.

When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest — and unlikeliest — phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.

I loved Water for Elephants, Gruen’s last book. In fact, it may be in my top ten favorite novels of all time. Ape House, although very entertaining, didn’t quite measure up. I did like the sort of Carl Hiassen-esque plot twists with the apes and many of the secondary characters and thought the book worked best when it got a little silly. The relationship between John and Isabel, on the other hand, often seemed forced to me. I was left wanting a lot more of the apes and a little less of the people.

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