Lisa's Reviews > Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees

Next of Kin by Roger Fouts
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Jan 21, 08

it was amazing
Read in January, 2005

When I was a little girl and signing as a means of communicating with chimps was covered in documentaries and in the pages of Life and Look and National Geographic as a sort of miracle, I thought that Jane Goodall and her colleagues lived unimaginably charmed lives.

At the start of this memoir, one has that same sense: what could be more magical and marvelous than learning how to communicate with animals? Fouts gives you a front and center peek into our closest animal cousins' perspectives and experiences of the world. It dazzles. You begin the memoir thinking that he is the luckiest guy in the world, having, through several twists of fate (described with appealing self-effacement), landed in a particular academic program, which, in turn, leads to life-long work with chimpanzees.

After an extended (and very enjoyably described) honeymoon period, he methodically breaks your heart. You learn, alongside the author, about the tortures endured by chimpanzees (both in the wild and within animal research facilities). Ultimately, though, the book is inspiring: the author acts with uncommon decency and is able to use his stature to ensure the safety of a number of chimpanzees in an enduring way, and encourages the reader to become active in efforts to remove chimpanzees from animal testing facilities.
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