web site hit counter Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo

Availability: Ready to download

A young woman follows her fiancé to war-torn Congo to study extremely endangered bonobo apes - who teach her a new truth about love and belonging. 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 li A young woman follows her fiancé to war-torn Congo to study extremely endangered bonobo apes - who teach her a new truth about love and belonging. 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 Vanessa'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.


Compare

A young woman follows her fiancé to war-torn Congo to study extremely endangered bonobo apes - who teach her a new truth about love and belonging. 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 li A young woman follows her fiancé to war-torn Congo to study extremely endangered bonobo apes - who teach her a new truth about love and belonging. 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 Vanessa'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.

30 review for Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo

  1. 4 out of 5

    Idarah

    "If I have learned one thing from Congo, it is this: If there are those you love, whoever or wherever they 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 hearts throbbing against yours and 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." – Vanessa Woods I go bananas for apes, so it' "If I have learned one thing from Congo, it is this: If there are those you love, whoever or wherever they 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 hearts throbbing against yours and 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." – Vanessa Woods I go bananas for apes, so it's no surprise that I fell in love with this book! Woods stumbles into the world of Bonobos accidently when she meets her husband, Brian. Bonobos live in the the shadow of their close cousins, the chimpanzees, and can only be found in the jungles of Congo. Their peaceful and accepting way of life is worthy of emmulation, especially in a country where violence, war and death are a way of life. "LOLA YA BONOBO is the only bonobo sanctuary in the world. More than sixty orphans live in a seventy-five-acre forest just outside of Kinshasa...All ape sanctuaries, including Lola, exist because of the bushmeat trade. In many African countries, where livestock is scarce and expensive, the easiest way to get protein is to shoot it." While Woods assists her husband with his psychology study and tests of the Bonobos at LOLA, she finds herself immersed in the stories of the sanctuary staff, the adult Bonobos, and the orphans that keep streaming in after being rescued from wildlife traders. It's a heartbreaking read at times, but I loved how Woods made the story as light-hearted as she could. She invites the reader into her marriage and heart, and I am so grateful for the awareness that this book raises about the plight of this loving primate. I feel motivated to get my ape on once again. I'll have to scour my shelves for another book about apes because their world is one I love to lose myself in!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Saleh MoonWalker

    Onvan : Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo - Nevisande : Vanessa Woods - ISBN : 1592405460 - ISBN13 : 9781592405466 - Dar 278 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2010

  3. 5 out of 5

    else fine

    When I picked this book up out of a pile of Advance Reading Copies, I had only a vague idea of what a Bonobo was, and an even vaguer grasp of what was happening in Congo. I'd heard plenty of news reports about atrocities, but, I'm sorry to admit, the who and the why confused me. Vanessa Woods not only introduces us to the social lives of the Bonobos in a way that will melt the heart of the crankiest reader, but also provides an effortless synopsis of modern Congolese history for those of us who When I picked this book up out of a pile of Advance Reading Copies, I had only a vague idea of what a Bonobo was, and an even vaguer grasp of what was happening in Congo. I'd heard plenty of news reports about atrocities, but, I'm sorry to admit, the who and the why confused me. Vanessa Woods not only introduces us to the social lives of the Bonobos in a way that will melt the heart of the crankiest reader, but also provides an effortless synopsis of modern Congolese history for those of us who needed to be brought up to speed. She's also got a sense of humor that veers between saltiness and pure slapstick, so lest you think you're in for some tofu-munching, holier-than-thou, delicate forest creature: think again. Woods is a delightfully earthy guide to this corner of the world. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a very important book. For too many people, bonobos (my spellchecker doesn't even consider their name to be a word!) are the least known member of the great primate family, often considered to be no more than "pygmy chimps." They aren't- they're a separate species, but like chimps, share some 97.6 of their genes with humans. The trick is, as Wood's and her husband's research attempts to discover- is What Is the Difference- because there are many. Bonobos are considered the most erotic of This is a very important book. For too many people, bonobos (my spellchecker doesn't even consider their name to be a word!) are the least known member of the great primate family, often considered to be no more than "pygmy chimps." They aren't- they're a separate species, but like chimps, share some 97.6 of their genes with humans. The trick is, as Wood's and her husband's research attempts to discover- is What Is the Difference- because there are many. Bonobos are considered the most erotic of the great primates, if only because their matrilineal culture uses sex not as a reward, nor something to be withheld as punishment, but as greeting, as affirmation, as a general "feel-good" pacifier. Woods and her husband Brian Hare work on discovering why bonobos will work together in cooperation, while humans and chimps (predominately) compete with each other, make war, and can show disgusting tendencies toward bullying and outright savagery. Yet bonobos exist as a differential doppelganger, making love, not war, and living in such a way as that the emotions they live with are enough to bring them to die of loneliness, if separated from their kin. Woods takes us to a bonobo sanctuary- one of only a few on the planet, because they live only in one country on earth- Congo- where orphaned bonobos out of the bushmeat trade are allowed to psychologically recover and live amongst their fellows in a protected manner. The book also functions as an educational tool for those of us in the West who never paid much attention to the years of violence and obscene warfare that has rent Congo for the past fifty years or so, most especially, the Hutu/Tutsi wars nearly ever-present since the late 1980s. It's quite a revelatory document, and yet, despite the narrative of the difficulties of the early struggles of their marriage, and the historical narrative, Woods shows us- like Goodall and Fossey- that the great primates (beside ourselves) have still got much, much to teach us regarding who we are as a species, and who we are in relation to all our inter-species others as planetary beings. Read it. You might look at life, and our society, a bit differently before you get through.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Drobnies

    At first, I thought this book was an Eat, Pray, Love with apes and genocide, but as I got more into it, I found it was much more interesting than that in its depiction of the bonobo orphanage, the study of bonobo behaviour, and the description of the tragic events in the DRC, including the impact of those events on individuals Woods came to know there. Some of the most moving parts of the book are about the bonobo-bonobo and bonobo-people interactions, though it can veer at times into the sentime At first, I thought this book was an Eat, Pray, Love with apes and genocide, but as I got more into it, I found it was much more interesting than that in its depiction of the bonobo orphanage, the study of bonobo behaviour, and the description of the tragic events in the DRC, including the impact of those events on individuals Woods came to know there. Some of the most moving parts of the book are about the bonobo-bonobo and bonobo-people interactions, though it can veer at times into the sentimental. Bonobos and humans are so alike in many ways, but I felt the temptation to directly and uncritically project our own experience onto to theirs was sometimes too great for Woods to resist. The way she dealt with her own experience sometimes seemed facile and lacking much insight in the gender dynamics of her own relationship. There is a good bibliography, and Woods had done a good job of giving credit to other researchers and journalists/authors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ashley V

    I liked this book for the most part. Before having read it I didn't really even know that bonobos exist, which is unfortunate because they are such fascinating creatures. I really enjoyed how the author described the bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo as having very distinct personalities (gay fashionista, tomboy, princess, goddess, etc.) Animals of a particular species often get lumped together as being pretty much the same as far as demeanor goes, but this really showed that they differ just as much as I liked this book for the most part. Before having read it I didn't really even know that bonobos exist, which is unfortunate because they are such fascinating creatures. I really enjoyed how the author described the bonobos at Lola ya Bonobo as having very distinct personalities (gay fashionista, tomboy, princess, goddess, etc.) Animals of a particular species often get lumped together as being pretty much the same as far as demeanor goes, but this really showed that they differ just as much as people do. A few times I actually got confused as to whether the author was talking about a bonobo or a person, that's how similar we are! I did enjoy learning a little bit about the political history and wars of the Congo. I was generally aware of the conflict but I had no idea to what extent to brutality reached. There are some very disturbing descriptions as to some of the violence occuring in the area, such as female genital mutilation. It's really not for the squeamish, but I'm glad it was included. It's part of the history of the Congo and I'd rather have the whole picture than just gloss over the less enjoyable bits. One thing I absolutely HATED (and this is a little bit silly) is that her husband calls her "Skippy." I would smack my significant other if they called me something like that. To me it just sounds a bit patronizing, like something you'd call a little, naive kid. That's just a preference thing though. It doesn't really have anything to do with the book. I just rolled my eyes every time I saw it. My only criticism is that on occasion, the book seems fairly repetitive and I found myself skimming a little bit over parts that I thought had already been adequately discussed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Seeley

    Vanessa Woods is quite a good writer - there's no awkwardness of phrasing here, no need to turn back pages to try to figure out what she's talking about. As a long-time fan of the primatologist women like Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey, and having learned a lot about chimp behaviour from reading William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach, I was interested in learning more about bonobos. Sadly, you won't learn an awful lot about bonobos by reading this book (you'll learn a bit - just not as much as you might Vanessa Woods is quite a good writer - there's no awkwardness of phrasing here, no need to turn back pages to try to figure out what she's talking about. As a long-time fan of the primatologist women like Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey, and having learned a lot about chimp behaviour from reading William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach, I was interested in learning more about bonobos. Sadly, you won't learn an awful lot about bonobos by reading this book (you'll learn a bit - just not as much as you might hope to). What you will learn a lot about is Vanessa Woods, her insecurities, her lack of self-esteem, and her relationship with her husband. This really strikes me as creative non-fiction run amok. Her resentment at having to do the experiments for her husband because bonobos in general prefer female humans and are mistrustful of males just seems so very odd - she's being fed and housed as a result of her husband's work, he's the one who's succeeded in getting the grants to carry out his research, she doesn't cook or clean, and yet being asked to work is out of line? Perhaps there's something I don't quite get about the Aussie sense of humour. However, it is rather heartwarming when Vanessa finally designs an experiment of her own and becomes engaged in studying bonobo behaviour. Honestly, I'd suggest people read Sara Gruen's Ape House rather than Bonobo Handshake (Woods, in blurbing the novel, generously states that Gruen's done more for bonobos than she ever will, and I suspect she's right). Either that, or use Bonobo Handshake for its bibliography.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rossdavidh

    Subtitle: "A memoir of love and adventure in the Congo". To hear Vanessa Woods tell it, she is a bit flighty, unserious, and overemotional. For the first few chapters, I appreciated her realistic self-appraisal. By the time I reached the end of the book, though, I am more of the opinion that she's a deeper thinker than she lets on at first. In case you haven't heard, bonobos are the "second chimp", with humans being the third. It wasn't so long ago that there was some uncertainty as to whether Subtitle: "A memoir of love and adventure in the Congo". To hear Vanessa Woods tell it, she is a bit flighty, unserious, and overemotional. For the first few chapters, I appreciated her realistic self-appraisal. By the time I reached the end of the book, though, I am more of the opinion that she's a deeper thinker than she lets on at first. In case you haven't heard, bonobos are the "second chimp", with humans being the third. It wasn't so long ago that there was some uncertainty as to whether or not they even were a distinct species, rather than a regional variety of chimpanzee found in the Congo. But they have been catapulted out of obscurity in the last couple decades, and Woods is one of the first generation of researchers to study them. They are more or less equally closely related to us as are chimpanzees, otherwise our closest living relatives. But, it turns out, they are very different from chimpanzees (and humans), and also very similar. The exact ways in which they are each, are what make them fascinating for Woods (and us). The shorthand description for bonobos is that they use sex like chimpanzees use violence. This is not to say that bonobos are never violent (or, for that matter, that chimpanzees never have sex), but the most common way for bonobos to deal with the many social frictions that any social animal with a big brain has, is to have sex about it. This includes between two females, between two males, between the very young (pre-pubescent) and adults, you name it. Where chimpanzees use either violence or dominance displays that hint at it to resolve disputes, bonobos use intimate physical contact of one sort or another. This isn't always about attempts at procreation, obviously; it is the "handshake" of the book's title. Woods describes two adult females engaging in ecstatic displays of celebration, ending in apparent orgasm, at the sight that she has brought apples for them (apparently bonobos really like apples). As another young female biologist and writer, Olivia Judson, has pointed out, modern science is generally much more willing to talk about violence than sex. The more closely related the species is to humans, the bigger the reticence. This is a bit odd, because sex is directly related to Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection, and even that Victorian grandee was willing to discuss sexual selection, and the idea that it was not only violent competition with other males, but also nonviolent competitive displays for females, that drove selection pressures. Other scientists were slow to acknowledge Darwin's ideas on sexual selection, however, and even simple ideas like the existence of homosexual behavior among non-humans has been only slowly accepted in recent decades. Woods, it is apparent from the get-go of this book, has no such mental block. Not that she is able to avoid talking about violence as well. Woods is clearly far from oblivious to the rest of Congo outside of the bonobo sanctuary where most of the book takes place. She not only gives a vivid description of the tragic recent history of the nation, including first-person accounts from several of her co-workers at the sanctuary, but also ties it back to the sources of it. Think you're not one of them? She draws out clearly how First World purchases of cell phones, to take one example, helped to fuel and fund savage ethnocidal warfare for control of the mineral resources in Congo's interior. She also does a good job of drawing parallels between bonobo (and chimpanzee) behavior and human equivalents, helped in part by the fact that she learned about bonobos when still in a new relationship with her then-fiance (now husband), Brian Hare. She and Hare explored how bonobos cooperate, relative to chimpanzees, and found that while the trick with chimpanzees was getting them to cooperate, the trick with bonobos was finding a case when they didn't. Take a bonobo to a room with fruit in it, passing by a window where they can see another bonobo (unrelated, who they have never seen before) locked out of that same room, and they will go let that bonobo in before the two of them approach the fruit together and share. The first bonobo won't do this unless they see another bonobo locked out, so it's not a compulsive door-opening behavior; it's the first well-attested case of altruistic behavior towards unrelated and unknown others (with the possible exception of humans). It's almost too easy to caricature the bonobos as free-love flower children, and Woods does make sure to tell us a few times about the way in which they maintain this social structure. If a young male attempts to use his size and physical prowess to bully his way to the top of the hierarchy, five or more adult women will, without warning, issue a "rebuke", which is a euphemism for violent assault. Even the largest single male cannot fend off five or more females at once, and it is this behavior (which requires forethought, planning, and trust among the females) that prevents any genetic reward (in increased access to food or breeding opportunities) for violent behavior by dominant males. It is not how we handle things among humans, exactly, and the discussion of human behavior (whether among the Congolese or among western researchers such as herself) does not explicitly draw this contrast, but it is clear enough. The challenge for us in examining both bonobo and chimpanzee behavior is probably not how to learn lessons for humanity, but how to avoid leaping too quickly to draw conclusions. Woods does a creditable job of introducing us to the topic without telling us what we should think about human behavior as a result, but it's clear that there is a lot for biologists (and the rest of us) to absorb. Jane Goodall has pointed out that it was only after decades of observation that she was able to paint an accurate picture of chimpanzee society, complete with inter-group conflict and the rest. It will likely take researchers like Woods as long to give us a balanced portrait of bonobos. Let's hope that we can keep them alive, preferably in the wild, long enough to give them a chance to do it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    I first learned about bonobos in Sara Gruen's Ape House, which was a great book because of how she portrayed the bonobos-- selfless, almost human creatures. I heard about this book when I saw that the author was coming to the college to speak. Bonobo Handshake is a wonderful story about love, war and hope. Vanessa Woods writing was easy, funny and informative. The information she provided about Congo will haunt me forever. I can't pick up my cell phone without thinking of the lives that were los I first learned about bonobos in Sara Gruen's Ape House, which was a great book because of how she portrayed the bonobos-- selfless, almost human creatures. I heard about this book when I saw that the author was coming to the college to speak. Bonobo Handshake is a wonderful story about love, war and hope. Vanessa Woods writing was easy, funny and informative. The information she provided about Congo will haunt me forever. I can't pick up my cell phone without thinking of the lives that were lost to provide the technology for it. The violence against women is especially shocking to me. Some of the stories are just too much to even write about. But that is why this book works. Woods tells you the horrors of the war in Congo. She talks to people that lived through the wars and yet, despite the horror, they are hopeful for a future with peace. Which leads to the bonobos. These peaceful, unknown apes that are living through the wars in the Congo as well. These apes share 98.7% of our DNA. I could go on and on about her accounts with these loveable creatures. If you go to the website, you can see how adorable some of the "characters" from her book really are. And since I have babbled, you'll just have to read the book to find out what the bonobo handshake is! Note: I don't usually do reviews. I did this really fast between breaks at work, so if it doesn't makes sense, sorry! :P

  10. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    I was surprised by this book. There are many parts of it that make a whole. There is the story of Vanessa and her husband undertaking research on Bonobos and Chimps. There is their quest on why humans developed the way to do. There are the animals themselves with their different behaviours, personalities and preferences. There is the story of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the various and recent wars and genocide which have gone mainly forgotten. There are the people of the Congo who live in hope I was surprised by this book. There are many parts of it that make a whole. There is the story of Vanessa and her husband undertaking research on Bonobos and Chimps. There is their quest on why humans developed the way to do. There are the animals themselves with their different behaviours, personalities and preferences. There is the story of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the various and recent wars and genocide which have gone mainly forgotten. There are the people of the Congo who live in hope and come together to celebrate a soccer game. There are the hunters and poachers who hunt animals for profit. There are Presidents, potential Presidents and their cohorts. There are the dedicated people who have established and maintain sanctuaries to provide homes for orphaned Bonobos and Chimps and where possible return to the wild. There is the conclusion of the research that one of the main reasons why humans developed was their tolerance which leads to cooperation. There is also Woods writing which at time is humorous, sad, deep and meaningful, very personnel and reflective. She has a clear and lucid style which makes the book very readable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This is a very moving book. It is part memoir and part history lesson. But mostly it is an account of the bonobos, the world's most endangered ape. Humans and bonobos share 98.7% of their DNA. Common chimpanzees, while very intelligent, can be quite aggressive and have been observed to wage war against other groups of chimps. Bonobos on the other hand live in a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake. The author recoun This is a very moving book. It is part memoir and part history lesson. But mostly it is an account of the bonobos, the world's most endangered ape. Humans and bonobos share 98.7% of their DNA. Common chimpanzees, while very intelligent, can be quite aggressive and have been observed to wage war against other groups of chimps. Bonobos on the other hand live in a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake. The author recounts her time studying bonobos at a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She makes it very easy to identify with these apes, most of whom have been orphaned and suffered very traumatic lives. Yet their tolerant, playful, loving nature shines through. Ms. Woods also does a good job of depicting the violent and chaotic political climate of the Congo as it has struggled to move towards democracy over the last decade. She also seems quite candid in dealing with her own emotions as she searches for meaning in her life and tries to balance work and leisure with her fiance who dragged her to this war-torn country. As I said, this is a very moving and informative book. It touches on questions of what it means to be human and how we compare to our closest ancestors. Highly recommended!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    I won this book through the First Reads Giveaway. A few years ago when I was taking my first anthropology class I read a book about bonobos from the library and I was fascinated. There are a number of things I enjoyed about this book. Besides learning about the bonobos, I learned a great deal about Africa and Congo. I have to admit that my familiarity with Africa's current events doesn't extend much more that a brief lecture I got in high school, so I really appreciated the mini history lesson th I won this book through the First Reads Giveaway. A few years ago when I was taking my first anthropology class I read a book about bonobos from the library and I was fascinated. There are a number of things I enjoyed about this book. Besides learning about the bonobos, I learned a great deal about Africa and Congo. I have to admit that my familiarity with Africa's current events doesn't extend much more that a brief lecture I got in high school, so I really appreciated the mini history lesson that Woods provided. I knew all kinds of horrible things have taken place, but I never really understood just how bad it was. Woods explained the situation in a way that it was both interesting and informative without getting boring. It was like reading a history lesson that my father would give me - and it has encouraged me to continue reading more about what has been going on in Africa. But what I liked most of all was her narrative. It was funny and sad and real and insightful. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Vanessa Woods writer her memoir of working with bonobo orphans in the Congo. It is much more than a simple memoir though. She shares her love story with meeting, falling in love with, and working with her husband. I was intrigued by the scientific studies they were conducting and the comparison between chimps and bonobos. It was also a loving look into the culture of the Congo and the wonderful people who dedicated their lives to saving the bonobo orphans. The memoir has also provided me with th Vanessa Woods writer her memoir of working with bonobo orphans in the Congo. It is much more than a simple memoir though. She shares her love story with meeting, falling in love with, and working with her husband. I was intrigued by the scientific studies they were conducting and the comparison between chimps and bonobos. It was also a loving look into the culture of the Congo and the wonderful people who dedicated their lives to saving the bonobo orphans. The memoir has also provided me with the most comprehensive and easiest to understand explanation of the civil wars in central Africa, their causes, how Western first world countries contributed to it, the brutality, and the will of the people to survive and to find joy in life. I was deeply moved by reading this memoir and highly recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Larisa

    I thought this was just going to be a book about animals, but it's so much more: an exploration of what makes us human (both the good and the bad traits that we have), a young woman's journey of self-discovery, and the most in-depth explanation of the wars in the Congo that I have encountered (and I came to this book fresh from reading Jeffrey Tayler's "Facing the Congo"). I couldn't believe how much Vanessa Woods was able to pack into one regular-size book! I laughed at her often snarky relatio I thought this was just going to be a book about animals, but it's so much more: an exploration of what makes us human (both the good and the bad traits that we have), a young woman's journey of self-discovery, and the most in-depth explanation of the wars in the Congo that I have encountered (and I came to this book fresh from reading Jeffrey Tayler's "Facing the Congo"). I couldn't believe how much Vanessa Woods was able to pack into one regular-size book! I laughed at her often snarky relationship with her new husband, recoiled in horror at descriptions of the wars and its effects on bonobos and humans, and cried in several places. To cram so much into a book without most of it seeming out of place is truly an achievement.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claudio

    Touching! Having spent myself 4 months in Berlin observing Bonobos, Vanessa manages to make me cry several time. If you want to know more about yourself and us human as a specie, this book will open your eyes.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sera

    In this book, Vanessa Woods skillfully interweaves three stories: her personal life, consisting of her temper tantrums directed at her husband Brian and her longing for understanding how the Vietnam war affected her estranged father; the history of the Congo with a focus on war; and her and her husband’s research and relationships with chimps and bonobos at the sanctuaries. The connection between these three stories is violence. Most of the bonobos who end up in the sanctuary in the Congo have be In this book, Vanessa Woods skillfully interweaves three stories: her personal life, consisting of her temper tantrums directed at her husband Brian and her longing for understanding how the Vietnam war affected her estranged father; the history of the Congo with a focus on war; and her and her husband’s research and relationships with chimps and bonobos at the sanctuaries. The connection between these three stories is violence. Most of the bonobos who end up in the sanctuary in the Congo have been orphaned when their parents were hunted for bushmeat, and the orphans are in a state of trauma much like the human victims of the war-torn Congo. But Bonobos are interesting because they “make love not war” –and so offer an alternative to the violence that pervades human and chimpanzee societies. I wish the book focused in more detail on the experiments and the scientific understanding of what makes bonobos so different, but one of the rules of reading is that you can’t blame a book for not doing something that it’s not trying to do. For working so much in the scientific world, Woods seems surprisingly uninterested in science, and that affects what she focuses on in her memoir. Instead, we learn more about what the bonobos like to eat and which one has pretty eyelashes. The writing style oscillates between the chatty verbiage of a blog post, the tone and topic of a term paper, and a preachy speech on how we’re all to blame for the carnage in the Congo because our cell phones and laptops use coltan. But I’m not as critical of the writing style of non-fiction books because the main point of them is the content, not the style. As such, this book was quite readable and informative, especially for those of us unwilling to slog through the extensive reading Woods has done (or implies she has done in the bibliography at the back of the book). I think Vanessa and Brian’s next research project should mimick the experiments they did comparing Chimps and Bonobos, but this time compare republicans and democrats. My thesis is this: Democrats evolved from bonobos (less fearfull of strangers, not inclined to fight, matriarchal) and that God created Republicans in the image of Chimps (male-dominated, fearful of strangers, aggressive and prone to war).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Campbell Obaid

    "It's hard to live with someone you haven't forgiven. It's like a cavity in my tooth that I can't see but I keep pushing at with my tongue. I'm afraid it will crack but I can't leave it alone." "...Because resentment and anger are what you old on to when you have all the time in the world." "The only way love endures is because of one simple gift. Forgiveness." "We all carry our own tales of violence. The distant war going on over there is not so different from the war we fight here. I don't know w "It's hard to live with someone you haven't forgiven. It's like a cavity in my tooth that I can't see but I keep pushing at with my tongue. I'm afraid it will crack but I can't leave it alone." "...Because resentment and anger are what you old on to when you have all the time in the world." "The only way love endures is because of one simple gift. Forgiveness." "We all carry our own tales of violence. The distant war going on over there is not so different from the war we fight here. I don't know why some people, like the Mamas and Suzy, can survive a war and still find enough joy to laugh as if their whole life has been blessed." "'If you have a strong sense of who you are and what's important, you can live through it. People like me, we never knew who we were, so we became the war. And because I was the war, I could never let it go.'" "If there are those you love, whoever or wherever they are, hold them. Find them and hold them as tightly as you can. Resist their squirming and impatience and uncomfrtable laughter and just feel their hearts throbbing against yours and 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 these precious traits we cling to as uniquely ours- empathy, altruism, morality- they have to come from somewhere. They didn't just appear as soon as the first human plopped out of his or her mother's womb. Evolution is a journey." "In the end, if fate is just a roll of the dice and you could be born anywhere, to any family in the world, if you look at the odds, who would you rather ne? Most of the time, bonobos have no hunger, no violence, no poverty. And for all our intelligence, all our things, bonobos have the most important of all possessions- peace." "In return, the bonobos will share their secrets. Schoolchildren learn that when bonobos are get angry, the hug. Women hear that together, bonobo females are strong. Men understand that it is possible to live a life without war."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tuppermalone

    To my way of thinking, this is a message book. Not particularly well written but alerting the world to the plight of the bonobos. The observations are interesting about the bonobos social behavior and the difference between humans, chimps and the bonobos and I actually felt, after hearing Woods' arguments, that the bonobos were superior to chimps and unfortunately, humans are closer to chimps in their behavior. As great literature, this is not it. I'm not even sure I would classify it as good li To my way of thinking, this is a message book. Not particularly well written but alerting the world to the plight of the bonobos. The observations are interesting about the bonobos social behavior and the difference between humans, chimps and the bonobos and I actually felt, after hearing Woods' arguments, that the bonobos were superior to chimps and unfortunately, humans are closer to chimps in their behavior. As great literature, this is not it. I'm not even sure I would classify it as good literature. But the message was worth reading about and the plea to support the Lola Ya Bonobo. After reading the book, I did check out the site supporting the sanctuary and also another website with soukous music which comes from the Congo. I also studied several maps of the DN Congo, Congo, and the adjoining countries of Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Angola and and Zambia. I tried to chart the distance between Kinshasa, Nagaba Island in Uganda and the Oleta Sanctuary in Congo. Before reading this book I didn't realize the differences between Congo, DN Congo. I had heard of the Tutzis and the Hutus but really didn't quite get what the problems were. I still don't think I really understand the tribal warfare within countries and that some countries are more sympathetic to one tribe or another depending on which tribe is in power in the particular country. To hear about the evisceration of women and children, the brutal rapes, cannibalism, and gross depravity of the soldiers and rebels alike was very unsettling. The amazing numbers of deaths and rapes was overwhelming. It seems that over population would not be an issue after hearing of the enormous numbers of innocents killed by these power-hungry war mongers. It makes one question how critical the bonobos are when one realizes how expendable human life has become in these war zones or, indeed, all of Africa.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cyn Armistead

    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. Now, I still don't feel that I needed the explicit descriptions of violence. I could h 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. Now, 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 really 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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Faye Gray

    When I first started reading this, I assumed it would be about a lady that was lucky enough to have a career working with Bonobos, something I always thought would be fascinating! This book also tells us more about the genocide and wars that are still going on in Congo, where the Bonobos live. Vanessa Woods is an excellent down-to-earth writer! I have laughed and cried while reading this book. I am also more aware of what the wars in Congo are about. She tells about the slaves having to work in When I first started reading this, I assumed it would be about a lady that was lucky enough to have a career working with Bonobos, something I always thought would be fascinating! This book also tells us more about the genocide and wars that are still going on in Congo, where the Bonobos live. Vanessa Woods is an excellent down-to-earth writer! I have laughed and cried while reading this book. I am also more aware of what the wars in Congo are about. She tells about the slaves having to work in the coltan mines. Coltan is a key element used in cell phones, laptops, and Playstations. I wish some of the people that always have to have the latest and greatest technology would read this book. I am an avid animal lover, and had seen Bonobos on TV before. I just had not realized what a loving, caring animal they are. Vanessa and her fiance are doing comparison testing with chimps and bonobos, to see how they react to different situations. It is only fun and games testing, no horrible medical testing. This book is a wonderful and warm read for any animal lover. After reading this book, I am now going to do some online research to find the bonobo sanctuary that Vanessa worked at and try to make a donation, so those loving creatures can always be cared for. And you need to read it to find out exactly what a "Bonobo Handshake" is. They do not greet each other like most animals do!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shellie

    This book was on display at the library and all I could remember was that I'd read another book about bonobos, fell in love, and wanted to read more; and promptly didn't because of course another book captured my attention. When I read the "Further Reading" section at the back I was reminded the book I'd read was "Ape House" by Sara Gruen in January of 2011. (Handshake was published a year before House) now that you have my back story - - I loved this book, I laughed and cried several times. Van This book was on display at the library and all I could remember was that I'd read another book about bonobos, fell in love, and wanted to read more; and promptly didn't because of course another book captured my attention. When I read the "Further Reading" section at the back I was reminded the book I'd read was "Ape House" by Sara Gruen in January of 2011. (Handshake was published a year before House) now that you have my back story - - I loved this book, I laughed and cried several times. Vanessa knows how to tell a good story that keeps you on the edge of your seat until she reveals the ending. But not only do we learn of bonobos in this book we learn a lot about the troubled history of Congo, as the bonobo refuge she visits is in Congo; Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary run by an amazing woman - Claudine Andre. Suggested web-sites to visit from this book: bonoboandshake.blogspot.com for a more daily journal type view bonobohandshake.com for donations and details healafrica.org to help women who have been raped in Congo to connect with Vanessa [email protected] I would caution youtube as it quickly leads to porn sites but if you're careful you will find some fun bonobo antics. Oh and Bonobos are so rare that most of the world does not even know about them and on-line dictionaries do not even recognize or correct the spelling, thus you will always see the squiggly red line under each Bonobo. However humans and Bonobos have about 98% common DNA - go figure.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Bonobo Handshake is that rare important book that I wish all people would read, for it is not just a brief treatise about our closest non-human cousins, but it is also a heartbreaking reflection of the horrors of which we are repeatedly and maddeningly capable, and the inspiring ways we press on despite it all. And when I say “we,” I’m not simply talking about humans. That’s not to say this is a depressing read. While author Vanessa Woods does not shy away from the terrible truths and graphic dep Bonobo Handshake is that rare important book that I wish all people would read, for it is not just a brief treatise about our closest non-human cousins, but it is also a heartbreaking reflection of the horrors of which we are repeatedly and maddeningly capable, and the inspiring ways we press on despite it all. And when I say “we,” I’m not simply talking about humans. That’s not to say this is a depressing read. While author Vanessa Woods does not shy away from the terrible truths and graphic depictions of violence in Africa (and elsewhere), she also manages to infuse her writing with a sharp and oft-subtle wit that disarms you and get you through. The title alone is evidence. While I don’t always agree with her occasional superficial summations of relationships, winnowed through the one she maintains with her husband, I recall how I felt at various points in my life, and I shrug it off to the gradual reduction in hope that affects us as we age. I’m no cynic, but I am less inclined to believe in emotions changing the world. In the vernacular of the book, humans remain more chimpanzee than bonobo. I implore those reading this review to give the book a try, especially if you are a friend of animals or merely curious about a lifestyle we humans might just want to consider. In the female-lead society of the bonobos, violence, aggression, and selfishness are replaced with love, pleasure, and cooperation. Isn’t this something we need more of in our own society?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I bailed on this book just started reading. There were just too many moments that made me cringe and roll my eyes to keep going. The author musing on how strange it is that humans are the only apes to develop to the extent that we have? No, that's not fate sweetheart, that's because humans pummeled every other humanoid primate to death, and we're getting pretty close to doing the same to all the remaining great apes too. But more than that, repeatedly commenting on how the Congo is "a fucked up I bailed on this book just started reading. There were just too many moments that made me cringe and roll my eyes to keep going. The author musing on how strange it is that humans are the only apes to develop to the extent that we have? No, that's not fate sweetheart, that's because humans pummeled every other humanoid primate to death, and we're getting pretty close to doing the same to all the remaining great apes too. But more than that, repeatedly commenting on how the Congo is "a fucked up place" might be true but there's a lot more going on than that. Woods' father was a Vietnam veteran and she wanted to understand how the war turned him into an "asshole" so he'd interrogate any local Congolese person she encountered, then was offended when they refused to recount the horrible war they've just lived through. And finally, while I understand that writing about the smack down fights you got into with your husband is therapeutic and very important, I reserve the right not to read that kind of material, especially out of the blue.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Margo Tanenbaum

    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 bono 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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ron Davidson

    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 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lorri Coburn

    I had not heard of Bonobos, a cousin of the chimpanzee. Bonobos don't have the killer instinct that chimps have--instead they are lovers and engage in lots of sex. Vanessa lived in the Congo with her anthropologist husband, who is researching what makes the bonobos so cooperative. This story covers her joys, heartbreaks, and disillusionments. I was surprised to fall in love with the bonobos, too, as her character descriptions are excellent. As a result, I cried and laughed throughout. Interspers I had not heard of Bonobos, a cousin of the chimpanzee. Bonobos don't have the killer instinct that chimps have--instead they are lovers and engage in lots of sex. Vanessa lived in the Congo with her anthropologist husband, who is researching what makes the bonobos so cooperative. This story covers her joys, heartbreaks, and disillusionments. I was surprised to fall in love with the bonobos, too, as her character descriptions are excellent. As a result, I cried and laughed throughout. Interspersed is recent historical information about the genocide and government in the Congo. Vanessa noted that we hear a lot about Darfur and Rwanda, but very little about the Congo and bonobos. Bonobos are a threatened species and she hopes to get word out to save them.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Liz Davaine

    *2.5 rounded up* I have a love hate relationship with this book. I listened to it on audiobook and by the halfway point I wanted to quit, but I am glad I finished it. I didn't even realize Bonobos existed and I appreciated learning about a new species of animal. I also got a new insight of the area of Congo and realized how little I knew about the wars going on in that area. On the negative side I got really annoyed with the relationship of the author and her husband (how she was annoyed he aske *2.5 rounded up* I have a love hate relationship with this book. I listened to it on audiobook and by the halfway point I wanted to quit, but I am glad I finished it. I didn't even realize Bonobos existed and I appreciated learning about a new species of animal. I also got a new insight of the area of Congo and realized how little I knew about the wars going on in that area. On the negative side I got really annoyed with the relationship of the author and her husband (how she was annoyed he asked for assistance with the experiments, how he called her skippy, etc.). I hated how she spent more time stating how F***ed up the Congo was instead of embracing it. There is other parts I despised, but I think I ranted enough.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (Sfogs)

    This is one of those books that everyone one should read. You learn so much about the Bonobos, the Congo and about people themselves. I am in awe of the survivors in this book, having gone through so much and still being able to get through, especially the young rescued Bonobos! Lola ya Bonobo does such great work, and it is the only Bonobo sanctuary in the world. It rescues, rehabilitates and re-releases Bonobos into the wild. How is it that the most peaceful of apes, lives in one of the most dan This is one of those books that everyone one should read. You learn so much about the Bonobos, the Congo and about people themselves. I am in awe of the survivors in this book, having gone through so much and still being able to get through, especially the young rescued Bonobos! Lola ya Bonobo does such great work, and it is the only Bonobo sanctuary in the world. It rescues, rehabilitates and re-releases Bonobos into the wild. How is it that the most peaceful of apes, lives in one of the most dangerous countries? Warlords and mineral exploitation (some of these minerals are used in cell phones and computers) all within the Congo.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    I received this book from Goodreads Firsteads Giveaway. I really enjoyed this book, although there are some tough parts, showing the worst of man and animal. She explains the political background well. She is not concerned with personal redemption, and focuses on her love of the animals and their story. If you care about animals, bonobos or chimps, and aren't bothered by the mention of penis and clitoris repeatedly, you will enjoy this book, and probably learn something about African politics. I received this book from Goodreads Firsteads Giveaway. I really enjoyed this book, although there are some tough parts, showing the worst of man and animal. She explains the political background well. She is not concerned with personal redemption, and focuses on her love of the animals and their story. If you care about animals, bonobos or chimps, and aren't bothered by the mention of penis and clitoris repeatedly, you will enjoy this book, and probably learn something about African politics.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    Interesting book. I listened to it on tape. Learned a lot about chimpanzees and bonobos, also about the Congo. It's amazing how these people persevered in the face of war and atrocities to protect orphaned apes and continue their research. I had no idea how big chimps are (the ones you see on TV are babies) nor how dangerous. Bonobos are very different from chimps and far less numerous, and much less is known about them. Woods sounds like a spoiled brat but her experiences in the Congo are well Interesting book. I listened to it on tape. Learned a lot about chimpanzees and bonobos, also about the Congo. It's amazing how these people persevered in the face of war and atrocities to protect orphaned apes and continue their research. I had no idea how big chimps are (the ones you see on TV are babies) nor how dangerous. Bonobos are very different from chimps and far less numerous, and much less is known about them. Woods sounds like a spoiled brat but her experiences in the Congo are well worth reading about.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.