Rosemary’s started college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone about her family. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There was something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. You’ll have to find out for yourself what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.
It took me a while to get into the story. The provocative opening scene and the beginning in the middle of a story put me off initially, but I knew what the book ultimately was about and therefor read on to the interesting bits.
SPOILER ALERT – I’m going to talk about something many reviewers leave out.
Because to do the book / audiobook justice one has to speak about the twist and it didn’t spoil it for me that I knew. One family member is a chimpanzee. In a behavioural experiment the family of the narrator took on a chimpanzee baby and raised it together with their children, effectively making them siblings.
The feelings of the family members towards the non-human member is well portrayed with a variety of reactions and attitudes: the scientist father who orchestrated the experiment being in stark contrast to his wife and son.
The book raises a lot of issues about animal welfare, socio-behavioural experiments, the damage done to both the humans and the chimpanzees and also a lot about family dynamics, about children acting out and how we all are beside ourselves.
The book is rich with much thought gone into it, and the characters throw in a lot of statistic and research information on these experiments, which completes that what one family experiment cannot include.
At times I felt torn, liking the factual information but not getting nto the characters. That came much later and then I understood the advantage of treating the subject as novel rather than a documentary.
There are a lot of loaded emotions, dramas, some heart-churning moments and much intellectual stimulus. I feel at times there was too much in this novel that distracted and that maybe the book had been more enjoyable if it had not tried to analyse and include all characters. The narrator analyses her brother, her friend, the chimpanzee sister, and quite late the mother’s viewpoint comes in via diaries.
This is undoubtedly a very impressive ‘must-read’ but be warned that it can also be demanding and overloaded.
It deserves all the praise it got but also some of the criticism.