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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by…

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Karen Joy Fowler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6632443,387 (3.82)2 / 298
Coming of age in middle America, eighteen-year-old Rosemary evaluates how her entire youth was defined by the presence and forced removal of an endearing chimpanzee who was secretly regarded as a family member and who Rosemary loved as a sister.
Title:We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Authors:Karen Joy Fowler
Info:A Marian Wood Book/Putnam (2013), Edition: 1St Edition, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2014, fiction, LC, gift, read in 2024, prize winner

Work Information

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2013)

  1. 40
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Though it is less witty than We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Never Let Me Go is another poignant and insightful story about biological experimentation and human identity. Both novels feature lyrical prose, well-developed characterization, and haunting tones of melancholy.… (more)
  2. 11
    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Laura1124)
  3. 11
    The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale (vwinsloe)
  4. 00
    Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (JenMDB)
  5. 00
    Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (Ciruelo)
  6. 00
    Ape House by Sara Gruen (cataylor)
    cataylor: animal rights
  7. 00
    We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: They’re both so good, but kind of alike, so don’t read them back to back.
  8. 34
    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Limelite)
    Limelite: Eccentric family members, family dynamics, coming of age, with an animal in the middle of it all, only not a bear in Fowler's novel. Two intelligent and original novels of similar experimentalism and high quality.
  9. 01
    Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver (Aquila)
    Aquila: I can't really say what links these books in my mind, it's just something about the way they make me feel.
  10. 02
    The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal (marieke54)
  11. 02
    Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees by Roger Fouts (marieke54)
  12. 02
    The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams (susanbooks)

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» See also 298 mentions

English (241)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (244)
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
Rosemary tells the story of growing up in her family with her brother, sister, imaginary twin sister, and parents. Her father is a professor of behavioral psychology. She starts the story in the middle, jumps around a bit, and eventually makes it through the beginning and the end. The most important milestone in her life is when her sister leaves.

This novel pulled at my heartstrings. It was funny, sad and a page-turner all at the same time. And I learned a lot. ( )
  LisaMorr | Feb 12, 2024 |
Hmmm. Torn between three and four and choosing to round down.

Interesting, sad, upsetting but somehow all oddly clinical and detached. I felt bad for just about everyone involved in this story and I liked the framework and the odd timeline but I did not enjoy the middle sections when Rosie was in college and getting into trouble with Harlow.

I wanted to know much much more about life with Fern.

I think I have to dig out my copy of Ape House (a book I bought but never actually read) and maybe some non-fiction about chimpanzees too. ( )
  hmonkeyreads | Jan 25, 2024 |
I really enjoyed this, however, I thought I was reading a noirish dark thriller type of novel. Turns out, I was reading a book about monkeys.
It's still great, but definitely not what it was sold to me as. ( )
  kimlovesstuff | Dec 31, 2023 |
Briefly, Rosemary is the unreliable narrator of this novel, unreliable because she a) doesn't tell us everything and b) isn't sure if what she remembers actually happened. The story starts in what she calls the 'middle' where she is at college when another young woman, called Harlow, goes beserk in the cafeteria and Rosemary is also arrested. Then we have various flashbacks to Rosemary's unusual childhood, in between what happens at college, and then a very short skimmed through section concerning what has happened since college and when she's, I think, around forty. Avoiding spoilers, I would say I found that last part the most unconvincing, considering the attitudes of the police and FBI to her brother and their suspicions about her - why would they have allowed her to have anything to do with the institution in question?

Luckily or perhaps unluckily I didn't know the big twist beforehand, which comes about 70 odd pages into the novel, concerning the narrator's sister. I'm not sure I would've bothered to purchase the book if I'd known. Luckily I did spend only a couple of pounds on it in a charity shop.

This novel has an agenda, up in neon lights. I'm not unsympathetic to the message, but the book hits the reader over the head with it constantly, in a way that risks alienating readers, and certainly - in my case - boring and irritating them. I didn't find any of the characters interesting or convincing, and the silly antics of her 'friend' Harlow with a stolen puppet of Madame Defarge were wearing in the extreme. The novel's theme should be sibling rivalry, jealousy and guilt, but it's lost among the heavy handed preaching about animal rights and the triviality of the protagonist's college days. So a 2-star disappointment. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Loved this book. It was engaging and well written. It had me from the first chapter. ( )
  JennyPocknall | Oct 19, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
Fowler, best known for her novel “The Jane Austen Book Club,” is a trustworthy guide through many complex territories: the historical allure and dicey ethics of experimental psychology, not to mention academic families and the college towns of Bloomington and Davis.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Joy Fowlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Berna, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
del Rey, SantiagoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Falk, CeciliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hegedűs Péter,Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hirata, GeniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ingendaay, MarcusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karhulahti, SariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lalechère, KarineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mangold, KatharineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scherpenisse, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turró, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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... Your experience as apes, gentlemen—to the extent that you have something of that sort behind you—cannot be more distant from you than mine is from me. But it tickles at the heels of everyone who walks here on earth, the small chimpanzee as well as the great Achilles.

—Franz Kafka, "A Report for an Academy"

the wonderful Wendy Weil,
champion of books, animals,
and, in both categories, me
First words
Those who know me now will be surprised to learn that I was a great talker as a child. (Prologue)
So the middle of my story comes in the winter of 1996.
What I found in books was daughters indulged and daughters oppressed, daughters who spoke loudly and daughters made silent. I found daughters imprisoned in towers, beaten and treated as servants, beloved daughters sent off to keep house for hideous  monsters. Mostly, when girls were sent away, they were orphans, like Jane Eyre and Anne Shirley, but not always. Gretel was taken with her brother into the forest and abandoned there. Dicey Tillerman was left with her siblings in a parking lot at a shopping mall. Sara Crewe, whose father adored her, was still sent away to live at school without him. All in all, there was a wide range of possibility, and Fern's treatment fit easily inside it.
Where you succeed will never matter so much as where you fail.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English


Coming of age in middle America, eighteen-year-old Rosemary evaluates how her entire youth was defined by the presence and forced removal of an endearing chimpanzee who was secretly regarded as a family member and who Rosemary loved as a sister.

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Book description
The story of an American family, middle class in middle America, ordinary in every way but one. But that exception is the beating heart of this extraordinary novel.

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.
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