Review: Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo by Vanessa Woods

Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the CongoBonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo by Vanessa Woods
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I nearly put this book down after the first chapter because I wanted to learn about Bonobos, not atrocities in the Congo. I stuck with it because it was the most interesting of the audiobooks that were already on my phone when I was making a long drive, and I got halfway through it during that drive. I was hooked by then and needed to know what happened to these particular Bonobos and the humans around them.

I still don’t feel that I needed the explicit descriptions of violence. I could have understood what was going on without that. But then, I’m particularly sensitive to such things, and I did already have a pretty good idea of what was going on in that part of the world. I suppose some readers may have needed those descriptions to “get it.”

I loved the relationships that developed between Woods and the various Bonobos, and how her network of friends and family grew over time. I am envious of the connection she has with her husband, Brian Hare. The information shared about the experiments is truly fascinating, and the competition/cooperation theme that runs through the book is vital to understanding not just chimpanzees and Bonobos, but humans.

I was listening to the book in the car the other day and heard the following at the end of chapter 34. It caused me to cry.
“If there are those you love, whoever or wherever you are, hold them. Find them and hold them as tightly as you can. Resist their squirming and impatience and uncomfortable laughter, and just feel their heart throbbing against yours. Give thanks that for this moment, for this one precious moment, they are here, they are with you, and they know they are utterly, completely, entirely loved.”

All in all, yes, I recommend the book. Just be warned about those descriptions, and if you choose the audiobook version, don’t listen with little ones around.

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Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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