Dear Colin McAdam,
What were you thinking? Getting into the hearts and heads of everyone with Looee’s story…
How did you manage to get into the mind of a monkey and portray the beautiful and the barbaric all at once?
How did it come to you? This idea of basic instincts, wants, and needs paralleled in the bodies of chimps and the hearts of humans.
You turned a biological study, a sociological fact, into a moving manuscript that transcends the concepts of truth and understanding.
Walt and Judy are deeply in love, but Judy longs for a child and finds that life is holding few surprises. Walt measures all beauty against that of Judy but doesn’t want her eyes to get any sadder. They stay side by side and search for distractions, realizing they may never have a family. On a day when hope seems low, Walt finds an unexpected opportunity in the pages of Life magazine. Soon they are welcoming Looee, born in Sierra Leone, into their home in the hills of Vermont, where they come to regard him as their son. Looee is a hurricane in clothes; the house is torn apart. Judy asks questions of herself and is judged by friends and strangers. But the three of them eventually find their rhythm and settle into their own version of love and life between four walls. Until the night their unique family is changed forever.
Hundreds of miles away, at the Girdish Institute in Florida, a group of chimpanzees has been studied for decades. There is proof that chimps have memories and solve problems, that they can learn language and need friends. They are political, altruistic; they get angry and forgive. Among them is Mr. Ghoul, who has grown up in a world of rivals, sex and unpredictable loss. As Looee and Mr. Ghoul ’s distant but parallel paths through childhood, adolescence and early middle age converge, a new experience of family is formed.
Told simultaneously from the perspective of humans and chimpanzees, A Beautiful Truth is an inventive, thrillingly intelligent and heartfelt novel about parenthood, friendship, loneliness and strength, about the things we hold sacred as humans and the facts that link us inevitably to a nature we too often ignore.
Did you know what you were doing? Did you realize that with every flick of your fingers against the keyboard and with every use of the word “balls” (you were right, you do use that word an awful lot) you were giving the world an opportunity to look in the mirror and see something different?
I’m not a mother, nowhere near it in fact, but one day I hope to be. To imagine Judy’s wants and longing for a connection that was more than what her husband could give her was not a hard stretch.
I’m not a man, but watching Walt bond with Looee, doing the regular old guy thing…scratching, hunting, admiring busty ladies…I dug it.
I’m not an ape (or am I?) but the competitiveness, the shyness, the territorial feelings, the annoyance with cliques, the fear of abandonment, the love of food, the joy of basking under a sun beam was all too familiar.
It didn’t matter whose voice you were writing in. It didn’t matter which story you were trying to tell. They were all at once different and the same. Your host of characters snuck up on me and frankly, Colin, they won’t let go.
Not only did you sneak up on my Sunday evening, but your book about being has echoed in my every thought since.
Was that your intention, Colin? Was it?
I hope you’re happy. I now have no choice but to highly recommend this book. Not for the writing; we all know you’re great with that. You’ve won prizes, I hear. Not for the beautiful cover work; the shelves are adorned aplenty with those these days. Not even for the loveable Looee, who makes everyone laugh and yearn at once. No, I am now compelled to recommend it because you took our unbearable state of being and showed us that we are not alone, even when we are.
Nice job, Colin. Thanks for that.
Someone who will now associate monkeys with vending machines, Blue Lagoon, spaghetti, love, heartbreak, and the reflection in the mirror.