A lucid, fictionalized account of an actual chimpanzee’s life, with strong ecological overtones.



A chimpanzee who escaped captivity and returned to his native forest narrates his story for the members of his new community.

In this novel, Kroma (Manners Maketh Man, 2014, etc.) draws on a 2006 incident in which a chimpanzee escaped from the Tacugama wildlife preserve in Sierra Leone and was later observed at the heart of a group of wild chimpanzees, apparently holding forth. Kroma imagines the life history that the ape, known as Bruno, might have been telling his listeners. Bruno, born to a group of wild chimpanzees and called Wuu-aai-yiaa, is renamed after being captured by poachers. Bruno lives as a pet with several missionary families before he is sent to Tekuyama, where he collects the life stories of his fellow inmates. The accounts of these other chimpanzees—a former scientific test subject, an American house pet, a mascot for one of the groups fighting in Sierra Leone’s civil war—form much of the narrative, until Bruno decides it is time to return to the wild. He organizes an escape, and although his compatriots eventually choose to return to captivity, he becomes part of a wild chimpanzee troop and rediscovers the skills he needs to survive in the forest. Kroma weaves information about chimpanzee habits and Sierra Leone’s recent history into the narrative, depicting apes who are aware (to the extent of musing on “the homocentric view of nature promoted by Western culture”) of their subordinate position in the human world. Although the book clearly identifies its setting as Sierra Leone and connects the chimpanzees’ experiences to that country’s recent history, there are several references to generically “African” and exotic traits (“Like most humans on the African continent, we chimpanzees are named after events, attributes, or the ancestors that our births invoke”; people meeting Tekuyama’s director, an Asian man, “can be forgiven” for assuming he is a local). But on the whole, Kroma has imagined a coherent back story for Bruno that serves as a microcosm of human-primate interactions and misunderstandings.

A lucid, fictionalized account of an actual chimpanzee’s life, with strong ecological overtones.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5117-4427-0

Page Count: 142

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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