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Extended Audio Sample The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, by Benjamin Hale Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,523 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Benjamin Hale Narrator: Robert Petkoff Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2011 ISBN: 9781607886891
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Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious, and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno’s ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting.

But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys—and most affecting love stories—in recent literature.

Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest, and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human—to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Hale's novel is so stuffed with allusions high and low, so rich with philosophical interest, that a reviewer risks making it sound ponderous or unwelcoming. So let's get this out of the way: THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is an absolute pleasure. Much of the pleasure comes from the book's voice . . . There is a Bellovian exhuberance befitting a Chicago-born autodidact . . . There's also great pleasure in the audacity of the story itself. THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE announces that Benjamin Hale is himself a fully evolved as a writer, taking on big themes, intent on fitting the world into his work. Hale's daring is most obvious in his portrayal of the relationship between Bruno and Lydia, which eventually breaks the one sexual taboo even Nabokov wouldn't touch . . . Ultimately the point of these scenes is not to shock us but to ask what fundamentally makes us human, what differences inhere between a creature like Lydia and a creature like Bruno that disqualify the latter from the full range of human affection. Christopher Beha, New York Times Book Review
  • One very evolved human, Benjamin Hale has evoked, in his first novel, the miracle of Bruno Littlemore, the world's first talking chimpanzee . . .This chimp not only speaks English, he's as sensitive and charming, as brilliant and learned, as any human alive . . . One need only read a few pages to be swept up by the grandeur of Hale's ebullient prose . . . It's Bruno's distinct voice, more than debating points, that wins us over . . . With his primary Chicago setting, engrossing storytelling, unabashed braininess, prediliction for eccentric characters, and long, looping, wonderfully evocative sentences, Hale reminds me of no writer so much as Saul Bellow. But he's got a bold, rick-taking, off-center view of the world all his own . . Adventure tale, love story, science fiction, novel of ideas - this one's got it all. Dan Cryer, Newsday
  • Bruno Littlemore is one of the most outrageous, vivid characters to populate a page in American fiction in a long time. . . . It's not only a roaring good tale, it's a wonderful musing on the nature of humanness and our relationship to the other species with which we share the planet . . . Hale's sense of humor is often ribald, and the human characters Bruno encounters during his adventures are richly drawn and often eccentric. The descriptions are clearly informed by a deep fondness, and that is the overriding tone of Bruno's narrative: love. The Baton Rouge Advocate
  • In this account by a chimpanzee who ascends the evolutionary ladder, first-novelist Hale explores what it means to be human. Nine years into captivity after committing a murder, Bruno-24 years old, hairless, with his spine straightened by bipedal standing, and his surgically fashioned, humanoid nose-dictates his memoirs, having become proficient at speech, reading, and visual arts. His first name was given to him at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo where he was born, his second is taken by him from researcher Dr. Lydia Littlemore, who tests him and with whom he comes to share a home and a deep, and eventually sexual, love. Motivated by his love for Lydia and language, Bruno soon lives and functions as a human, becoming an assault on those who consider humans unique, and his blissful relationship with Lydia spawns hatred. Like his protagonist, Hale clearly loves language, using words with precision (likely to send readers to a dictionary) and for play, as when Lydia, when happy, "chortled up the engine" to start her car. With its exuberantly detailed sex between species and its concept that human cognizance of death leads to superstition and religion, this novel is likely to offend some readers, while others will find it holds a remarkable, riotous mirror to mankind.—Booklist (Starred Review)
  • Imagine, for a moment, a future in which animals are accorded the same rights as humans, a society in which cattle ranchers, research scientists and pet owners are regarded with an antipathy we now reserve for eugenicists and slave traders. In the graduate literature seminars of this future, Benjamin Hale's debut novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," would be hailed as a brave and visionary work of genius . . . This interspecies coming-of-age story - in which a chimpanzee acquires language and attempts to make his way through human society - would be taught alongside "Animal Farm," the works of Temple Grandin and JM Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello. For readers of the present day, THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE offers a touching and quirky story of identity formation, a brash, glittering, engaging yarn that pushes past opposable thumbs, universal grammar and bipedal ambulation to the pulsing heart of our fair species. The novel's narrator and semi-reluctant hero announces himself with a flourish . . . Erudite and affected, bitter, brilliant and lonely, Bruno's narrative voice self-consciously echoes many of the 20th century's most memorable narrators . . . THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is a major accomplishment. A lively page-turner that asks the big questions head on and doesn't shy away from controversy, Hale's first novel is a noisy, audacious and promising debut. San Francisco Chronicle
  • We've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your chest . . . "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" is a brilliant, unruly brute of a book - the kind of thing Richard Powers might write while pumped up on laughing gas . . . When the novel's antics aren't making you giggle, its pathos is making you cry, and its existential predicament is always making you think. No trip to the zoo, western Africa or even the mirror will ever be the same . . . funny, sad and shocking . . . extraordinary intellectual range. . . But just when you want to stuff this chimp back in his cage, he comes up with some unforgettable new adventure, like his off-off-Broadway production of "The Tempest" that's absolutely transporting. So let Bruno run free. He's got a lot to tell us, and we've got a lot to learn. Ron Charles, The Washington Post
  • This is not a book for the squeamish. There is bestiality, and rape, and what one might consider an incestuous relationship. Let's acknowledge that upfront, but then move on. If you let this be an excuse for not reading the book, you're missing out on one of the more effusive and unrestrained works of fiction in years . . . It's Bruno's voice that gives this novel the complexity and life it deserves. His stories, although not always reliable, are always abundantly full of the mysteries of humanity. Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • Ambitious . . . it throbs with energy and boils with passion as it expresses a dark vision of our essential nature that strikes uncomfortably home. Los Angeles Times
  • Powerful . . . a debut novel short on arrogance or pretention, but full of confidence and life . . . Yet, despite Bruno having the most romantic narrative voice since Humbert Humbert, he lacks that definitive trait that comes with lived-in humanity: humility. By giving us a narrator with so much passion, and so few successes in acting on it, Hale has created one of the most tragic literary heroes in recent memory . . . Their first sexual encounter is one of the most suspenseful and cringe-worthy moments I've read in recent fiction. I prayed for them to stop, and thrilled that they gave in . . . Hale is communicating something very sophisticated in how Bruno comes to learn to express himself, but not the world around him . . . We have to give Bruno-and Hale-credit for delivering a story like this through sheer force of will . . . Good for Bruno, and for Hale for delivering him to us-I'd rather have a monkey with multitudes than a human with platitudes any day. The Millions
  • “Hale’s Bruno is smart and inclined to archness and irony, and it’s a pleasure to follow his thoughts, darkling and otherwise…a book of considerable merit…As much fun as a barrel of monkeys.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “This novel holds a remarkable, riotous mirror to mankind.”

    Booklist

  • “A tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your chest…Hale wraps his prehensile wit around humanity’s deepest philosophical questions. From the magic of consciousness to the reifying function of language, the value of art and the morality of science, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a brilliant, unruly brute of a book…When the novel’s antics aren’t making you giggle, its pathos is making you cry, and its existential predicament is always making you think.”

    Washington Post

  • “One need only read a few pages to be swept up by the grandeur of Hale’s ebullient prose…It’s Bruno’s distinct voice, more than debating points, that wins us over.”

    Newsweek

  • “It throbs with energy and boils with passion as it expresses a dark vision of our essential nature that strikes uncomfortably home.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a major accomplishment. A lively page-turner that asks the big questions head on and doesn’t shy away from controversy, Hale’s first novel is a noisy, audacious and promising debut.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Selected for the February 2011 Indie Next List
  • Selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A 2011 Washington Post Notable Book for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 2/16/2014

    " Interesting, bizarre, ultimately worth a read, but not spectacular. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julia | 2/11/2014

    " I can't dispute that the story is original. And if a story's success can be determined by how uncomfortable it makes you, then this one is a winner. Seriously, it's written very, very well, and I appreciated the originality, but the sex parts grossed me out (and I'm no prude). I couldn't understand how the female lead could allow herself to fall in love with a chimp, no matter how evolved he might be. But the idea that a chimp could evolve enough to speak English was well laid out and believable. In all, I'm glad I read it because I like to expand my literary horizons, but it won't be one of those books that I re-read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 1/27/2014

    " Creeped me out...in a good way, i guess...monkey on woman sex scene is a little strange... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Meghan | 1/20/2014

    " I loved this book - dry, funny, dark, and interesting. I can't recommend it enough. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pamela Joyce | 1/19/2014

    " this was an excellent book; although a bit strange. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret | 1/16/2014

    " I'm really torn about this book... I loved the first half of the book, but once Bruno went to NY, I lost quite a bit of interest. I can't say that I would recommend it to everyone, because of some of the particular subject matter, but I am glad that I read it. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Nicole | 1/10/2014

    " I picked this up because I thought it would be similar to the book Ishmael which I love, but it didnt hold my attention. Perhaps later it will click. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanne Martin | 1/3/2014

    " it makes me giggle aloud often while reading... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris Kepner | 12/27/2013

    " This book is brilliant. EVERYONE should read it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Smyth | 10/24/2013

    " Completed a 500+ page book while taking care of a newborn, which is really saying something. Unfortunately, fatigue prevents me from writing a decent review. Highly recommended...that's all I can manage, folks. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 10/15/2013

    " Benjamin Hale wowed me with his writing style and thought provoking messages. Would not recommend to immature high school readers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anna Yang | 10/12/2013

    " The story is brilliant and wonderfully written, but my favorite part has got to be the language. Melodious, simply incredible. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Carl | 9/14/2013

    " The autobiography of a chimpanzee? Please. It was way too cute and pleased with itself to take seriously. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael Hillman | 8/21/2013

    " A wonderful look at what it means to be human from a new arrival to the species. Bruno seems to represent not only apes but all members of society who don't quite fit in. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cindy | 8/16/2013

    " This book will definitely challenge your way of thinking. Moments of poetry and simplistic beauty, with moments of irritating and pompous drivel, and moments that will make you squirm uncomfortably. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Susan Greiner | 7/27/2013

    " Maybe I wasn't in the right mindset to read this one. It is a clever premise, but I just couldn't get through it. Would be interested to hear what others think of it. Maybe I'll try again someday. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jill | 5/4/2012

    " HOLY MACKEREL! Such a book! I actually became verklempt at the end...from a combination of the story itself and the fact it was over. Benjamin Hale is a huge talent, I can't wait to read everything he's written, and will write. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kiss-that-frog | 3/24/2012

    " I could put it down and not miss it at all. . . I thought the author went on and on when it wasn't necessary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 6/19/2011

    " Beautifully written, thought-provoking - what makes us human??? I will be interested to read what Mr. Hale writes next! "

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