Sophie is spending another summer with her mother in the Congo at her bonobo sanctuary when she rescues Otto, a baby bonobo, from a poacher on the street. The two become inseparable, and when a chaotic revolution breaks out in the capital, Sophie decides to stay with Otto rather than flee to safety to the United States. After a brutal attack on the sanctuary, Sophie’s left on her own with Otto and the other bonobos desperately trying to survive in a nation ravaged by violence.
I picked this book up based on Maggie Stiefvater’s review, expecting a good read. I did not expect a powerful, emotionally packed journey, but that’s what this book delivered. I instantly connected with Sophie and Otto and their inseparable bond. Their relationship is tender and humorous and believable. It’s clear that Schrefer did his research about bonobos (he even traveled to Kinshasa to visit a bonobo sanctuary in 2011). I also loved Sophie’s interaction with the adult bonobos when she was trapped in the sanctuary. It was fascinating to see how she changed the group dynamic and hierarchy.
Schrefer also does a great job of describing the horrors of the revolution and how the people struggled to survive. That’s what makes this book so powerful. It introduces you to a world so unlike our own here in the United States. I think we take a lot of things for granted, and reading a book like this reminds us how good we have it, and how much worse life could be. I agree with Maggie Stiefvater’s opinion in her review: “It’s one of those books that makes you look at your own culture a little differently; makes your world a little stretchier.”
This book will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
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