Pop Culture Princess

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Benjamin Hale takes us on a smartly strange trip into The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

The leading man of Benjamin Hale's debut novel,The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore,would be the first to tell you that he is not truly human but can no longer call himself an animal.

As Bruno narrates the story of his life,we learn of his origins as a born in captivity chimp at Chicago's Lincoln Park zoo where a group of scientists select him for their experiments in animal/human communication. One scientist in particular has earned his trust early on,Lydia Littlemore.

Bruno's bonding with her helps him to adjust to the startling new world of the laboratory that he has been thrust into and it's out of a desire to please her more than anything that gets Bruno to start speaking and learning the wonders of the human world:

Lydia and Bruno connect even more when she is granted permission to keep him at her apartment in the city. This in depth nurturing of Bruno has it's good and bad points,as his level of intelligence rapidly grows under her care(and even leads to artistic expression via painting) but his animal instincts emerge in occasionally uncontrollable ways.

Bruno's devotion to Lydia also grows by leaps and bounds,tying into his physical maturity perhaps sooner than his teacher expected. He becomes jealous of other relationships that she has and finds himself strongly in love with Lydia. Before long,Lydia and Bruno embark on a love that more than dares not to speak it's name,especially since it can separate them for good.

After losing funding for their project,Lydia and Bruno take refuge with an eccentric millionaire and his wife who owned their own animal habitat,complete with other chimps that Bruno can interact with.

As much as their new home offers a haven for the two of them,complications soon arise that forces the pair to trek home to Chicago. Sadly,Chicago becomes no longer welcoming,as Lydia's minor health problems turn into major ones that exposes them to scandal and scorn.

While Lydia's body and mind break down,Bruno finds himself forced apart from her and with no choice but to learn to find ways in which to live on his own. His flight takes him to New York,where his many odd encounters include a stint on the stage with a flamboyant new friend:

Ultimately,Bruno winds up going home to seek out Lydia and there more than one fate is sealed. Now,this is a book that is definitely not going to be for every taste but that doesn't mean it is tasteless at all. Hale's main character is a being with a rather high vocabulary who expresses himself in elegant terms,yet can get down to the nitty-gritty in certain areas.

However,despite the less socially accepted details of his story,Bruno's struggle to become truly human are both compelling and identifiable. At points,he's neither ape nor man,holding contempt for the complexities of humanity while resenting his simian origins but longing for their seeming simplicity as well.

Bruno is both blessed and cursed by his knowledge,torn between two worlds and his fury at being manipulated by those who gave him this forbidden fruit to eat is the stuff that Shakespearean rants are made of:

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is due to be released this February and should cause quite a stir in more than one literary quarter. If you're willing to dive into this interestingly offbeat whirlpool of words,be prepared for some surprises along the way. You may also be surprised to find yourself eager to keep those pages turning into the wee hours of the night.

Whether you find this book to be a shocking and sometimes satirical examination on what it means to be human or a riff on the Frankenstein standard,The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore has plenty to say from an amazingly unique main character that is truly worth listening to:

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