"Stage four. Surgery. Recovering." While those are the simple words that once described Dr. Francine Burk's situation, the reality is much more complex. Her new reality is bacon rinds for breakfast and feeling unduly thrilled by her increasing ability to walk across a room without assistance. And it's being offered a placement at a prestigious research institute where she can put to good use her recent award money. With the Foundation's advanced technological resources and a group of fascinating primates, Francine can begin to verify her subversive scientific discovery, which has challenged the foundations of history — her Theory of Bastards.
Frankie finds that the bonobos she's studying are as complex as the humans she's working alongside. Their personalities are strong and distinct, and reigning over it all is Mama, the commanding, matriarchal leader of the group. Frankie comes to know the bonobos and to further develop her groundbreaking theory with the help of her research partner, a man with a complicated past and perhaps a place in her future. And then something changes everything, and the lines that divide them - between subject and scientist, between colleague and companion — begin to blur.