Bruno Littlemore is a chimpanzee. A thinking, speaking chimpanzee engaged in an epic diatribe regarding what it means to be human. Bruno plays with language the way lesser animals would with a stick, a ball or some other oddity that intrigues them. His capacity for innovative and unexpected turns of phrase (standing on the very capable shoulders of author Benjamin Hale, naturally), his frank and sometimes vulgar language and his daunting vocabulary all come together in a very cogent, sometimes rambling, treatise on all things human. Make no mistake, this is a work of fiction, however, Bruno’s unflinching look at his journey towards humanity and lessons learned from the humans around him hold a very real mirror up to the reader and force a more than superficial reflection into what it means to be human.
Born in Lincoln Park Zoo to two unremarkable chimp parents, Bruno did not always have the capabilities he so fluently displays in this memoir. Taken from the zoo by Dr. Lydia Littlemore, Bruno travels a path that takes him across the country, from research subject to, graphically, love interest of Dr. Littlemore, to escapee and murderer, and finally detainee once more at Lincoln Park Zoo. More than anything, Bruno’s explorations into his burgeoning humanity are what make this novel sparkle, the plot seems almost secondary to the world we are presented through Bruno’s eyes.
Driven by playful, daring and wholly unexpected language, Benjamin Hale has created in The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore a book that challenges its readers in a way that few contemporary novels have before. In every sense, Bruno is human but for his origins, yet he views our society and the human condition through the lens of an outsider. This unique viewpoint is enough to ask the questions that many people will be uncomfortable asking, let alone attempting to answer. What is it to be human? Is our knowledge of our own mortality the true source of religion and superstition? What is the true form of romantic love, and is this a question that is possible to, or even worth answering?
This may not be a book for everyone, but for the brave and willing soul, it will provide a challenging, engaging and often high-spirited look at the lives we make for ourselves and this tribe we call humanity.