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Extended Audio Sample Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo, by Vanessa Woods Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (775 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Vanessa Woods Narrator: Justine Eyre Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In 2005 Vanessa Woods accepted a marriage proposal from a man she barely knew and agreed to join him on a research trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country reeling from a brutal decade-long war that had claimed the lives of millions. Settling in at a bonobo sanctuary in Congo’s capital, Vanessa and her fiancé entered the world of a rare ape with whom we share 98.7 percent of our DNA. She soon discovered that many of the inhabitants of the sanctuary—ape and human alike—are refugees from unspeakable violence, yet bonobos live in a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake.

A fascinating memoir of hope and adventure, Bonobo Handshake traces Woods’s self-discovery as she finds herself falling deeply in love with her husband, the apes, and her new surroundings while probing life’s greatest question: What ultimately makes us human? Courageous and extraordinary, this true story of revelation and transformation in a fragile corner of Africa is about looking past the differences between animals and ourselves and finding in them the same extraordinary courage and will to survive. For Vanessa it is about finding her own path as a writer and scientist, falling in love, and finding a home.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “When Woods describes her daily interaction with the bonobos, her account takes on a warm charm. Woods’s personable, accessible work about bonobos elucidates the marvelous intelligence and tolerance of this gentle cousin to humans.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Don’t think that this is just a book about apes. It’s a love story, an adventure story, and a political education about a country that has seen more tragedy and inhumanity than you can imagine.”

    Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Margo Tanenbaum | 2/3/2014

    " This is an extraordinary book--a combination memoir, animal behavior book, and book about African politics rolled into one amazing story of a young woman who marries a primate researcher and finds herself living in the Congo at a bonobo reserve. She writes with unusual humor, pathos, and good sense about bonobos (a close relative of both humans and chimpanzees but a separate species)and how they help us understand what makes us human. The contrast between the loving, peaceful society of the bonobos and the horrible atrocities committed in the Congo is part of what makes this book so compelling. It's one not only for animal lovers--although if you are an animal lover you will want to be on the next plane to the Congo to visit these endearing creatures. It's a book that's a terrific read for anyone interested in human nature. Highly recommended. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ron Davidson | 1/24/2014

    " In a review of another book, I wrote that I'm a sucker for chimpanzee stories. Now I'm a bigger sucker for bonobo stories after reading this book, a fascinating story about something I knew very little about. The author is clearly passionate about her subjects -- which include more than just bonobos. She speaks with great compassion of the Congolese people, who suffered greatly in the most devastating war since World War II. (How many Americans have even heard of this war?) And she successfully integrates her personal story into the greater narrative of this book. (I was leery of the book before I started, because of the mention of a "love story" in the publisher's blurb.) How can bonobos teach humans about altruism and compassion? Can we save the bonobos and ourselves? Vanessa Woods gives us a moving story of important but neglected subjects. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jean Cable | 1/11/2014

    " Interesting but a little too much about the Congo civil wars for me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Raychel | 1/10/2014

    " A compelling story full of love, adventure and loss. Vanessa Woods is incredibly honest, even about the things that nobody wants to admit about themselves. "

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