Beau­ti­ful Ape Girl Baby

Heather Fowler

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - KAREN RIGBY

Pink Nar­cis­sus Press Soft­cover $15 (300pp) 978-1-939056-11-5

A unique blend of chutz­pah and vul­ner­a­bil­ity mark this story of a girl born with the looks of an ape.

Ir­rev­er­ent, un­con­ven­tional, and hy­per­real, Beau­ti­ful Ape Girl Baby tracks an ape born to wealthy par­ents. Heather Fowler’s dark, hu­mor­ous novel is both the story of a psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­per­i­ment gone wrong and an aching por­trayal of a seven­teen-year-old in search of love.

Born with the looks and vi­o­lence of a pri­mate, Beau­ti­ful is raised on a com­pound that in­cludes friends who are paid to praise her, de­signer clothes, and a mother and fa­ther who shield her with elab­o­rate lies. No one dares risk her dis­plea­sure, so when she es­capes on a road trip to meet her idol—ra­dio host of the Strong as An­i­mal Woman Show—it’s with the reck­less confidence born of hav­ing never been held re­spon­si­ble for her im­pul­sive be­hav­ior. Beau­ti­ful’s in­stincts cause may­hem, while her gen­uine be­lief in her own su­pe­ri­or­ity colors her per­spec­tive.

With a com­plex char­ac­ter who ca­su­ally quotes Au­dre Lorde, be­lieves in the Rus­sian ex­pres­sion toska, and spouts wis­dom as only an out­sider can, Beau­ti­ful is a strange fig­ure. She’s a bib­lio­phile loaded with in­sights, yet naive. She’s child­ish, awk­ward, un­in­ten­tion­ally funny, hon­est, and de­spite her ex­tremes, oc­ca­sion­ally a nor­mal, hor­monal teen. The unique blend of chutz­pah and vul­ner­a­bil­ity turns a wild premise into a mov­ing tale of learn­ing to live in the world.

Be­neath the se­ries of ac­ci­dents and chance en­coun­ters lies a deeper tale of self-im­age and lone­li­ness, choos­ing to stand out or blend in, and the power of na­ture ver­sus nur­ture. Ac­com­pa­nied by her driver, Thomas, Beau­ti­ful meets peo­ple on the fringes, from an ec­cen­tric forty-nine-year old gang­ster dubbed Fe­dora Man to a drug-ad­dicted, would-be thief. In one of the book’s smartest con­vo­lu­tions, Beau­ti­ful, who has un­der­gone years of ther­apy her­self, plays coun­selor to the adults she meets, with sur­pris­ingly per­sua­sive pow­ers.

Fowler spins clas­sic themes of loy­alty, be­trayal, love, and pro­tec­tion in a dy­namic plot. Beau­ti­ful’s grad­ual awak­en­ing to the truth about her­self raises provoca­tive ques­tions on what it means to be an­i­mal or hu­man.

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