Reviewed by Jessie de Geus
Nestling down in a big red l library chair I picked up Sheri Speede’s book, Kindred Beings: What Seventy-Three Chimpanzees Taught Me about Life, Love, and Connection, and I took some time to study the cover. For a moment my eyes got stuck on the subtitle, and I feared it was going to be an overly romanticized tale of a woman finding the meaning of life deep in the jungle of Africa. Nonetheless I started reading and I found myself quickly caught up in Speede’s adventures.
She tells her story with great ease and her colorful descriptions stirred up my excitement. There were times when her story made me laugh, but at times it also made me intensely sad. The image she sketches of an underfed and depressed chimpanzee chained up and sitting on polluted soil for more than twenty years is heartbreaking. It is this heartache that is the driving force behind Speede’s tireless efforts to build a shelter from scratch. At points Speede could come across as a little moralizing, and often unrealistically tough. I would think it only healthy that a person who has just been attacked by three big men with knives to be shaken up for a while, and that a violent tropical illness prevents one from working for ten days. However, this is not acceptable for Speede, but I guess that someone who voluntarily gives up a comfortable life with a well-paying job and a handsome boyfriend to live in the jungle for ten years, and work persistently on a project that seems hopeless from the start, must be a little crazy.
All in all I felt great respect for Speede’s conduct. One can only be in awe of a woman who digs her car out of the mud with a machete and exposes herself to poisonous snakes and malignant mosquitoes on a daily basis to fight for an injustice that she cannot accept. After closing the book, and studying the cover once more, I felt really inspired by this one woman’s great persistence and I can honestly say that Kindred Beings is a book definitely worth reading!
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