Jittery, intelligent ... tern shows wry insight into the peculiar problems of academia, and the many discussions of communication, animal and human alike, add depth to her depictions of relationships in which the parties involved experience a distressing inability to communicate.
Though she often depends on facile academic stereotypes, Stern reveals the ways in which scientists may try to deploy objective methods, but are ultimately human. Our ability to describe and understand the world at an intellectual and theoretical level, is not always transferable to ourselves as individuals nor in our relationships with others ... The book is further sustained by a set of diverse characters, including an insightful, but flighty father, a smart, seven-year old niece, typical university colleagues and a misbehaving parrot ... [the] lack of Prue’s character description and development weakens the novel’s core themes. The feeling throughout is that the author’s intention was to craft Ivan as an unreliable narrator. It is questionable whether the moves throughout the novel substantiate this kind of complexity in narrative voice and plot. Nonetheless, this is a smart, entertaining and highly readable novel, one that should appeal to a diverse audience.
... there is a rash of cohorts from all corners of Ivan and Prue’s various realms — a few too many, perhaps, to keep straight ... What pulls The Study of Animal Languages toward its unexpectedly satisfactory conclusion (though not a by-the-book happy ending) is a series of false steps that require Prue and Ivan to face inner truths that neither character had thought silently to themselves, let alone proclaimed aloud to each other ... Thankfully, author Stern has skillfully provided a true understanding of how missteps and mistakes can lead to clarity, honesty, and relief — the happiest ending of all.