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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