"But to tell of love, wonder, and joy is not what I am here to do." So declares the eponymous narrator of Benjamin Hale's debut novel/faux memoir, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
(12 Books). Despite Bruno's avowal to avoid such sentimental indulgences, his story is full of them: "L is for laughter. L is for literature. L is for love. L is for life. L is for language," he says. Above all, L is for Lydia: the object of Bruno's affection and the one responsible for his education and subsequent downfall. Did we mention Bruno is a chimp and Lydia a human? With a resigned honesty, he catalogs his life from his early days as a wild animal in a Chicago zoo to his love affair with Lydia (warning: the explicit sex scenes are meant to shock, and they do) to a murder that, given the chance, he would "recommit without hesitation." All the while he's tracking his own evolution via his burgeoning grasp of language, the only meaningful thing that Bruno seems to think separates ape from human. Told in an eloquently deluded voice reminiscent of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert, the book, a tinderbox of complications, touches on some big topics: animal rights, linguistics, and philosophy. Bruno's tale, however, is at heart a reflection on every sentient being's desire to connect with an other, whatever the species.
— Samuel Reaves Slaton