Even bolder and more important than its companion volume, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, de Waal’s 2016 best seller ... puts these most vivid of mental experiences in evolutionary context, revealing how their richness, power and utility stretch across species and back into deep time ... Though emotions are our constant, intimate companions, de Waal surprises us on almost every page. This book is full of the kind of facts you call up your best friend to share.
[De Waal's] best book ... Though science has long resisted the idea that non-human animals share aspects of human traits, de Waal brilliantly builds his case that emotions are 'bodily expressed,' therefore somewhat measurable, and that not only can we see that other creatures have emotional lives, but that they can help us understand what underlies our own ... [De Waal] uses his own research, some familiar from his other books, lots of it fresh, and weaves in thoughts from literature, art criticism, and a pile of work from others ... [De Waal's] book too may help reframe how we see animals and our place among them. Ultimately, the conversational tone isn’t just a style, but a key to understanding — these are complex notions, he seems to say, but just use your common sense.
Through colorful stories and riveting prose, de Waal firmly puts to rest the stubborn notion that humans alone in the animal kingdom experience a broad array of emotions ... Occasionally, de Waal overgeneralizes. It's startling to encounter this kind of gender stereotype: 'Attractive women, especially those of childbearing age, are perceived as rivals by other women, which makes it hard for them to get their vote' ... Through these powerful statements coupled with his convincing descriptions of animal emotions, de Waal contributes immensely to an ethical sea change for animals.
It is, in general, a convincing book, and De Waal — who has spent a long career working with chimpanzees — is no doubt an excellent observer of primate behaviour. Yet it’s hard to know how many of his anecdotes really say what he claims they say. Does an ape called Borie really frown disapprovingly when De Waal sprays an infant chimp with water? Did a troop’s alpha females really intervene to stop Jimoh beating a love rival? Or has De Waal just interpreted it that way? ... Another weakness is that, although De Waal is obviously immensely knowledgeable about chimpanzees, there are a few moments when he strays into science that are a little less convincing ... These are relatively minor foibles, though. Looking at our closest relatives through the eyes of the zoologist is a revealing exercise; it reminds us just how much of an animal we are, despite our pretensions to being more. De Waal’s book is a window into chimps’ lives, and a looking-glass for our own.
... Mama’s Last Hug is a densely packed volume covering a range of emotions – empathy, sympathy, disgust, shame, sense of fairness – that we share with animals ... Building solid evidence in case after case with a few educated guesses, always returning to carefully controlled experiments which show the humbling complexity of animals.
A captivating survey of animal and human emotions ... In de Waal’s engaging inquiry, we roam the animal kingdom (with emphasis on his favorite primate research subjects) as he makes his most important point: we animals share the same emotions, just as we share the same organs.
With wit and scholarly perspicacity, the renowned primatologist and ethologist offers an abundant study of animal and human emotions, urging a kinder, gentler approach to those with whom we share our planet ... We are all animals, de Waal reminds us, and he has provided a rich perspective on—and an urgent invitation to reconsider—every aspect of life around us.
Highly illuminating ... Most of the author’s observations involve the spontaneous behavior of chimpanzees, bonobos, and other primates, but readers will also be rewarded with tales of birds, dogs, horses, elephants, and rats. As he has shown in nearly all of his books, de Waal is a skilled storyteller, and his love for animals always shines through. His examples of the actions of certain humans—e.g., Donald Trump, Sean Spicer—lend color to his argument, and the simple drawings that illustrate behaviors and facial expressions are exceptionally clear and effective ... De Waal turns his years of research into a delightful and illuminating read for nonscientists, a book that will surely make readers want to grab someone’s arm and exclaim, 'Listen to this!'
In this illuminating—and remarkably moving—treatise on animal empathy, de Waal delivers some of his most damaging, and joyous, blows yet to human exceptionalism ... de Waal’s masterful work of evolutionary psychology will leave both fellow academics and intellectually curious layreaders with much food for thought.