Talk to Me

Ecco: HarperCollins. Sept. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780063052857. $27.99. F
Like many of Boyle’s novels (The Harder They Come; the PEN/Faulkner winner World’s End), this latest—told alternately from the point of view of the human and chimp characters—finds a sensitive issue and dives deep into an exploration that locks on and won’t let go. Sam, a chimp raised by humans, appears on a talk show with Guy, a California State professor who has raised Sam and taught him sign language. A student named Aimee sees Sam on TV and volunteers to work with him. That Sam might be dangerous, with twice the strength of a human, adds great uncertainty to the enterprise. When Moncrief, the actual owner of Sam, suddenly takes him away to be housed in a terrifying chimp farm, Guy’s academic studies are ruined, and Aimee is bereft. Aimee goes to the farm and eventually breaks Sam free from captivity, but while they are able to hide for a short time, the story ends in tragedy.
VERDICT Against a backdrop of lurid news stories of chimps living with humans, where things go horribly wrong, this novel makes a visceral kind of sense and raises uncomfortable issues of human relationships with other species. Highly recommended.
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