By Sheri Speede
Harper One, $26.99, 272 pages
Kindred Beings is the memoir of Sheri Speede, an Oregon-based veterinarian who started the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, Africa. The book gives an overview of Sheri’s early life and career, and her interest and increasing awareness of the need for a chimp rescue in Cameroon, where chimps are frequently caged and treated as pets, orphaned from their parents and, worst of all, sold for meat. With her partners, Dr. Speede worked to navigate the murky political and social waters to get access to land for the sanctuary and eventually successfully creates the rescue center.
Dr. Speede’s determination, perseverance and commitment to her work are apparent throughout the book. Oddly, the real story in this memoir isn’t about Dr. Speede’s journey from veterinarian to activist; it’s in the relationship she develops with the chimps she rescues and her insights into their world. It’s clear from the start that the chimps are not unintelligent; rather they have quite a complex social network, culture and individual personalities. The stories Dr. Speede tells are heart-warming, endearing and, at times, heartbreaking displaying her love for the chimps on every page. This is a book that, once read, will never be forgotten.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern