Category Ape House

Guest blogger: Sara Gruen

Panbanisha drinking tea

photo of Panbanisha at the tea party with Sara Gruen, courtesy of the Great Ape Trust

Part of the immersive research for Ape House, Sara’s novel about a family of bonobos, was a visit to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines to get to know some bonobos at first hand…

On an unusually hot spring day, Panbanisha and I sat on a blanket on the grass near a wooded area. In front of us were plates of cookies she’d selected and pots of tea she’d brewed (although she prefers caramel macchiatos, she’d made clear this was a tea party). We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so both of us had gone to some effort—we were both wearing lipstick and had paid special attention to our hair. She asked me if I’d like milk in my tea, and I said yes, please. She passed me the bottle.

bonobo ape Panbanisha plays with her Potato Head (a gift from Sara Gruen, author of Ape House) at the Great Ape Trust

photo of Panbanisha playing with her Potato Head (a gift from Sara Gruen) courtesy of the Great Ape Trust

After I used some, I passed it back. She tipped the bottle to her lips and drained it, wiped her mouth with a

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napkin, and set it delicately beside her. She then suggested I try some cookies, telling me which ones tasted better dipped in tea. She watched me eat a few, and then asked if I was finished. I said that yes, I thought I was, and passed the plate over. She raised it to her lips and dumped the remaining cookies into her mouth. Perhaps feeling bad about my cookie-less state, she disappeared into the forest and came back with a branch of leaves she’d selected specially for me. I ate a few out of politeness, although they would have been much improved by some olive oil. We discussed my upcoming book, and I showed her the manuscript, but it was windy and the pages kept blowing away, so we gave up. Panbanisha asked if I’d eaten eggs that morning, and I replied that I had not, but I had eaten some the day before. She told me that a bunny had recently hidden eggs in the forest. She looked pensive for a moment and added that she wished the bunny would come back.

In the background, a man said something into a walkie-talkie. Within five minutes, the Easter Bunny appeared with a basket of eggs, showed them to us, and then hid them in the forest. Panbanisha kindly allowed me to find the first egg, and then gratefully—and gracefully—peeled and ate it when I pled fullness and gave it to her. This was a Tuesday, and Panbanisha was keeping a strict diet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but one must make exceptions for special occasions.
Panbanisha is no dummy. She is also not human. continue reading »

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