Chimpanzees used in laboratory experiments have been a hot topic this summer, from the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine hearings on the use of chimpanzees for experimentation. Now, Unsaid, a new novel by Neil Abramson, movingly explores the ways in which animals—including a chimpanzee, Cindy, who communicates with sign language—impact the lives of the humans who care for and about them.
The novel takes us on the journey of David Colden, an attorney who is mourning his wife’s death while defending sign-language researcher Dr. Cassidy, who has raised Cindy from infancy and who will do anything—including breaking the law—to prevent the young chimpanzee from being sent to a laboratory.
I wanted to cheer when Colden told the court: “There was a crime committed here—but it wasn’t by Dr. Cassidy. The crime is by those who would torture a thinking, feeling, caring, intelligent creature and expect others to sit idle amid the torrent of blood and screams.”
In some ways, Dr. Cassidy’s story mirrors the real life work of Dr. Roger Fouts, who has spent decades teaching sign language to chimpanzees. Because he doesn’t “own” all the apes he works with, some of them have been sold to laboratories over the years, including Booee, whom Fouts, trailed by a 20/20 film crew, visited in a laboratory years later with heartbreaking results. The ensuing public outcry resulted in Booee being sent to a sanctuary.
Unsaid: A Novel is available from Amazon.
Written by Michelle Sherrow