From bestselling and award-winning author T.C. Boyle, a lively, thought-provoking novel that asks us what it would be like if we could really talk to the animals
When animal behaviorist Guy Schermerhorn demonstrates on a TV game show that he has taught Sam, his juvenile chimp, to speak in sign language, Aimee Villard, an undergraduate at Guy's university, is so taken with the performance that she applies to become his assistant. A romantic and intellectual attachment soon morphs into an interspecies love triangle that pushes hard at the boundaries of consciousness and the question of what we know and how we know it.
What if it were possible to speak to the members of another species—to converse with them, not just give commands or coach them but to really have an exchange of ideas and a meeting of minds? Did apes have God? Did they have souls? Did they know about death and redemption? About prayer? The economy, rockets, space? Did they miss the jungle? Did they even know what the jungle was? Did they dream? Make wishes? Hope for the future?
These are some the questions T.C. Boyle asks in his wide-ranging and hilarious new novel Talk to Me, exploring what it means to be human, to communicate with another, and to truly know another person—or animal…
Boyle's diverting latest (after Outside Looking In) is equal parts road novel, campus drama, and roundabout love triangle focused around Sam, an intelligent chimp raised among humans who communicates through sign language, making him a brief cause célèbre in the mid-1980s. Behavioral scientist and college professor Guy Schermerhorn has a lot to prove—his life's a ruin and his custodianship of Sam is in question—leading him to stake everything on an appearance with Sam on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, lest Guy's sinister superior, Dr. Moncrief, cart Sam off to be experimented on, or worse. Guy enlists Aimee Villard, an eager student with an immediate connection to Sam. Professor and student embark on a halfhearted relationship, but both are focused on the increasingly demanding chimp, and, as Dr. Moncrief moves to make good on his threats, Aimee takes Sam on a cross-country road trip, winding up in a trailer court in Arizona, where the two eke out a life among the local misfit community. Chapters from Sam's perspective make him a captivating creation, but fans of Boyle will recognize a bit of retread from his previous novels and stories. It's a fun ride, but it doesn't exactly break new ground.