LUCY by Laurence Gonzales

Book Quote:

“Sometimes it seemed to Jenny that they were almost human. In graduate school in 1987 she had gone to work with the largest population of bonobos in captivity at the Milwaukee Zoo. They were among the last of the great apes. The first time Jenny had locked eyes with the dominant female at the zoo, she knew that she was looking at a creature who was far more like her than unlike her.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (JUL 15, 2010)

Laurence Gonzales begins Lucy in the Congo, where Jenny Lowe, an American primatologist with a PhD in anthropology, is studying bonobos in their native habitat. She abruptly flees her hut when the insurgents resume their fighting, and makes her way to the camp of David Stone, a British researcher. Sadly, the revolutionaries had already been there, leaving one survivor, fourteen-year-old Lucy. Jenny takes Lucy back home to Chicago, not realizing that they are about to embark on a long and agonizing journey. For Lucy is no ordinary teenager; she is a genetic human-animal hybrid, created from the DNA of her father, David Stone, and a bonobo. Although Lucy looks like any other girl, she is highly educated (she can recite poetry by heart and speaks five or six languages), uncannily perceptive, and has the ability to communicate with animals.

Lucy enrolls in high school, but unsurprisingly, has difficulty fitting in with her peers. When Jenny discovers the shocking truth about Lucy’s origins, she worries about the girl’s future. If intolerant individuals were to become aware of Lucy’s genetic history, how would they react? Gonzales has a field day exploring the ways in which Lucy and Jenny’s lives become progressively more complicated. As the challenges mount, the two depend on their allies for emotional support. Among them are Harry Prendeville, a doctor, who has been in love with Jenny for years; Amanda Mather, a mature and caring classmate who takes Lucy under her wing; Ruth Randall, a wealthy woman whose heart goes out to Lucy; and Jenny’s friend, Donna W. Feather, who has worked with bonobos at the Milwaukee Zoo for more than twenty years.

Lucy is beautiful, exotic, highly intelligent, and sensitive. She appreciates Jenny and Amanda’s kindness, although she misses her father and the life that they once led. There are some light-hearted moments, as well. Lucy watches a soap opera for the first time and interprets the strange goings-on from a unique perspective; she interrupts a wrestling match and easily throws one of the participants across the room; Lucy learns “teen-speak” to replace the stilted vocabulary that she learned from her father.

The novel falters, however, when Gonzales introduces clichГ©d villains who are eager to experiment on Lucy, lock her up, or exterminate her. These sadistic goons are straight out of central casting. In fact, most of the characters in Lucy are either completely benevolent or reprehensible. In addition, throughout the novel, Gonzales hammers home not-too-subtle points about the tendency of human beings to be unenlightened, materialistic, wasteful, bigoted, cruel, violent, and out of touch with their environment. The uneven writing style runs the gamut from eloquent to prosaic. Gonzales is most effective when he describes Lucy’s attempts to elude her vicious pursuers; her flight from persecution generates a fair share of suspense and excitement. Another plus is the author’s imaginative, satisfying, and touching conclusion. The ideal audience for this book would be adolescent girls, who would identify with Lucy and admire her spunk, decency, and determination to triumph over adversity.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 84 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf (July 13, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Laurence Gonzales
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another interesting teen girl:

WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

For well-researched, well-plotted Chimpanzee book:

Captivity by Debbie Lee Wesselmann



July 15, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: ,  В· Posted in: Coming-of-Age, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

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