We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
This novel is about a family that raises a baby chimpanzee as a daughter, and what happens when they lose her. Rosemary, who was raised as a twin sister to Fern the chimp, narrates, switching around in time between her childhood, her college years, and the present, when she’s about 40. The exact cause of Fern’s exile was the mystery that kept me reading. The reveal didn’t disappoint, but showed a real tragedy caused by the gap between humans and animals, the foreignness and unknowableness that separated the sisters despite their love. Being raised with Fern gave Rosemary the mannerisms of a chimp and changed her views of human society, giving her a fascinating outsider perspective. I enjoyed Rosemary’s wry voice and her circular storytelling.
Bleeding hearts and the especially squeamish should be warned: there are several disturbing scenes of cruelty to animals, especially in lab settings. In some cases the images were truly heartbreaking and in others, just gruesome. This is kind of a book with a cause, but the other side of the issue–the value of research–is definitely acknowledged and given its proper weight.