*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Beautiful Ape Girl Baby
Author: Heather Fowler
Page Count: 295
Genre: Magical Realism/Fiction Novel
Publisher: Pink Narcissus Press
Release Date: June 15, 2016
1)”My womb was and is a creatively glorious mystery.”
2)”I’m practicing independence. This means I’ll create my own solution to this undesirable situation.”
3)”‘Yet’, dissected, is a word every decent person believes to mean alluding to an implied future event- but which every indecent person uses just to fob off current responsibility with…”
4)”‘I refuse. Je refuse!‘ Beautiful did not speak French, but had heard this in a movie and liked it.”
5)”Not everyone has the stomach to be a real woman.”
New words: febrile, dank, bovine, cloacal, toska, friable, jackdaw, clout, malarkey, desultorily, maven
Friend(s) who would enjoy this book: Divya, Rohini, Riley, Alisha, Jordan, Tyra, Ocean, Evelyn, Priyanka, Sarah
Song(s) in the soundtrack of this book /*okay, this is the entire soundtrack*/:
1. Killer Queen, Queen
2. Wave(s), Lewis Del Mar (This band is epic!)
3. When We’re Dancing, Twin Shadow
4. Don’t Wanna Fight, Alabama Shakes
5. Corazon Sin Cara, Prince Royce
6. Word of Mouth, Shakey Graves
7. Candy, Wake Owl
8. Californication, Red Hot Chili Peppers
9. After the Moment, Craft Spells
10. The Antidote, St. Vincent
11. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham! (cough *fedora man* cough)
12. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, IZ
13. Into the Ocean, Blue October (this song is just too perfect)
When Beautiful Ape Girl Baby Chef, our half-ape half-girl main character, embarks on a quest for liberation outside of her parents’ estate, she brings not only her squad of friends, sort-of children (it’s very complicated), and recent lovers, but the reader on an unforgettable journey. It’s never been more exciting to traverse the country with strong characters like Beautiful who lead the reader straight into explorations of societal norms, which she subsequently shatters. I took my first road trip with Beautiful, and completely fell in love with Fowler’s work.
Where better to start than with with Fowler’s skillful use of humor? Fowler places her hilarious characters in incredibly amusing situations, which ends up giving the entire story a certain charisma and individuality; in essence it feels as if BAGB is a living thing, almost as beautiful as Beautiful herself. The way Fowler states outlandish things so matter of factly is incredibly funny. A perfect example is shown in the sentence below, which I probably read four times while laughing out loud.
“The bar boasted a full parking lot, but she hit only one other vehicle while trying to park.”
There is this blatant honesty (more on this later) which Fowler writes with that is both incredibly powerful and hilarious at the same time. It seems as if Fowler has absolutely mastered the art of watching and listening because she is able to accurately describe so many different relationships, feelings, situations, etc. And by combining humor with this “honest perspective” the entire story becomes so relatable. Fowler seems to state what everybody has been thinking before they have thought it.
And Fowler’s characters. If you are looking to read a book filled to the brim with characters that just don’t seem to fit neatly on a page, start here. Every single character that makes an appearance is multi-dimensional, extremely well developed, and so human. Every time I imagine the paperback copy of this book, I see this exploding volume with ripped pages that never seems to close. Beautiful Ape Baby Girl Chef is truly a “gem of love and delight”. She has the strong will of Jane Eyre and all the wit (and more) of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey. Beautiful is the kind of character who can take “a mind-altering piss” at a gas station, and who “read[s] Dostoevsky in her spare time”. Although she can be a bit ferocious, (see below):
“I think I should tie him to a funeral pyre and light him on fire,” she said.
“What?” Thomas asked.
“Nothing,” Beautiful said.
Beautiful is one of the most incredible characters I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Everything about this story was so natural. And this quote, courtesy of Beautiful, expresses my feelings beautifully.
“Nature moves me where concrete does not. I’m stung, and yet, the slight pain soothes me somehow.”
Fowler’s voice, characters, and prose were all incredibly authentic, which led to an entire novel filled with dialogue that flowed easily, and an open-minded feel. Fowler never pushes ideas; she has this knack for letting the reader come to their own conclusions.
Conversations Beautiful has with others address a variety of very important issues, one of the most important being Fowler’s “redefinition of womanhood.” Through Beautiful, Fowler is able to analyze common gender stereotypes and share empowering rhetoric effectively. There is a specific section focused on how a mother’s relationship with her daughter differs from her relationship with a son, which was interesting and powerful. An excerpt below:
“Because boys were never expected, for example, to learn how to smile and appease houseguests, never expected to be delicate and feminine and camouflage their reactions to ridiculous speech by male counterparts.”
Another particularly important excerpt was one in which Fowler addresses how masculine traits (for example, wearing a suit) correlate with power in a situation.
“I can have power wearing any dress I currently own. I can have power in a thong bikini with no bra. I can have power butt-naked. I am Strong as Animal Woman.“
In addition, Fowler gives insight on parenting, friendship, and love in the context of gender, which is both funny and hard hitting.
Although this novel is focused a lot on character growth and development, I would not call it a coming of age novel, because it serves a very unique purpose. Fowler introduces a developed character into our society, which makes it almost like a “coming of society” novel. The introduction of a “pure” character into our world, allows the reader to view our society through a different lens. This is so incredibly powerful because it takes the everyday and turns it into something extraordinary. The way Fowler allows us to view stereotypes and gender roles that we take for granted as absolutely outlandish from the point of view of a character we respect very much is impressive and truly perspective changing in every way.
Beautiful Ape Girl Baby is unlike any book I’ve ever read before. You will never meet such strange, bold, spunky characters anywhere else. It is a story that is both emotionally complex and extremely intelligent, and I would recommend it to absolutely everybody.
“I don’t understand you, Beautiful,” she said. But you’re one of the most generous human beings on the planet. I won’t forget you.”