Review: "Hi, everybody. My name is Lucy Lowe and I'm only half human. You may think this is some kind of YouTube joke but it's not, as you will all find out soon enough. … They're doing a genetic analysis and it's going to prove what I'm about to tell you: that my mother was a bonobo." Lucy, a novel by Laurence Gonzales, grapples with one of the most awe-inspiring proposals of biotechnology –- a human breeding with an ape. Lucy seems to onlookers to be just like any other teenage girl. She's smart, attractive, and likes to hang with her girlfriend. But, she's also alarmingly strong and has an uncanny understanding of the natural world. Undoubtedly, there are shocking implications of such a genetic marvel, and Gonzales demonstrates the intriguing, the shocking, and sad truths that lie behind such experimental breeding.
Lucy begins in the middle of a war in the Congo. Jenny is a biological anthropologist studying the ways of the bonobos. But, when war gets too close to "home", Jenny is forced to flee the area. In an effort to reach a fellow scientist, who has become a casualty of war, Jenny meets Lucy –- his daughter. Jenny does everything she can to protect Lucy and bring her to America until appropriate family can be located. However, what Jenny doesn't know is that family will never be located because Lucy is really the daughter of a bonobo. It doesn't take long for Jenny to uncover the unusual behaviors in Lucy and to deduce that Lucy isn't like the rest of the world. Jenny finds in her fellow scientist's notebooks that he fathered Lucy as an experiment –- to see if a human and a bonobo could be crossbred. As Lucy works very hard to assimilate into modern society, Jenny struggles to find a way to protect her from that same society. Once Lucy's secret becomes public knowledge, it is a race against time to prove to the world that she is harmless and has a good heart –- but if they can't prove it, then they must find a way to protect her existence from both the scientists who want to run experiments on this scientific phenomenon and the rest of the world who wants her eliminated.
Certainly the scientific possibilities in biotechnology are awe-inspiring. The prospect of cross-breeding is already a reality in some animals –- who's to say it won't become a reality in the human animal? Laurence Gonzales does an excellent job forcing the reader to rethink everything that was once believed. Where Gonzales shines is in character development. He's created a character that elicits such love and concern from readers. Who wouldn't like Lucy? She's unique and intelligent; she's insightful in ways that a human can only imagine. But, the reader can't help but question, "Why?" The arguments against experimental breeding are compelling. Each argument is developed fully in the novel -– leaving little room for doubt. But, yet, the reader does doubt. How can such a horrific idea create something so wonderful? Is it right to destroy Lucy just because she might cause harm? Is it right to experiment on a "human" body? Is she human -– even if her DNA might be slightly different from others? Readers can't help leaving Lucy with more questions than they had when they started -– Lucy is one of those books that will not be easily forgotten. Readers will ponder for weeks, months, and even years after they've read it. What more can you ask for in a novel? To be thoroughly entertained, completely engrossed, and to have your every thought questioned, pick up Lucy by Laurence Gonzales.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Margo Nauert for contributing her review of Lucy.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of Lucy for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Margo Nauert — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Location(s) referenced in Lucy: Congo, Chicago, Illinois
— ♦ —
Lucy by Laurence Gonzales
Publication Date: July 2010
List Price: $24.95