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A Beautiful Truth
2013, 292 pages
Set in the 1970s, one half of this tale follows Walt and Judy, an infertile Vermont couple who adopt a baby chimpanzee. Louee grows to be like a son in many amazing ways, but his wild side looms large as well, an ever-present barrier to the family’s inclusion in “normal” society, and a potential safety threat. Walt and Judy’s story alternates with a chronicle of a Florida chimp research lab, told largely from the viewpoint of the captives, using a half-invented language. The lab director strives to document the chimps’ intelligence and empathy, but is largely at odds with the scientific community. As time goes on, the lab struggles for funding, and must turn in part to conducting grisly pharmaceutical experiments, a great torment to both the chimps and their caretakers.
As the stories progress and inevitably converge, McAdam does not gloss over the “primitive” and violent tendencies of both chimps and humans, but he also gives hope with his portrayals of affection and understanding, both within and between the species. A somewhat heavy, emotionally challenging, linguistically interesting and very thought-provoking read.
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