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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A…
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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel (original 2013; edition 2014)

by Karen Joy Fowler

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,3362303,182 (3.83)2 / 280
Rosemary's young, just at college, and she's decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we're not going to tell you too much either: you'll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life... There's something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. So now she's telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice... It's funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you're telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern, don't feel bad. It's pretty hard to resist.… (more)
Member:aarti
Title:We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel
Authors:Karen Joy Fowler
Info:Plume (2014), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:2015, Audiobook, Family

Work Information

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

  1. 40
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    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)
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  5. 44
    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.
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English (226)  Piratical (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (229)
Showing 1-5 of 226 (next | show all)
Read this book, but don't read any reviews of it beforehand, if you want to avoid any spoilers. I tell you already, most of the reviews in newspapers and elsewhere are positive. The big twist is hard to conceal, for it is paramount to the discussion about the book. After I read the twist, I felt a little bit disappointed, so surprising it was, I didn't really know what to expect further. Then Karen Joy Fowler slowly, but surely, made me fall in love with the idea, the knowledge, and the characters. It made me look back at my own childhood and family, and made me wonder what and how did my behavior change. It opens our eyes to parts of our world we usually choose to ignore, and it does so without judging or forcing us to see, wittily and beautifully combining a lot of facts and fiction. There will be some knowledge you'll take with you forever. It is the kind of book which offers both a great story, and opens your eyes to the world around you. The narrator, who is somewhat the protagonist, too, has an amazingly young and amusing voice, it doesn't give any clue about the real age of the author. It's the kind of book you read in a few days. ( )
1 vote luciarux | Jul 3, 2022 |
Such an amazing book. Could not put this down. She is so gifted ( )
  closingcell | Jun 27, 2022 |
An intriguing book, cleverly written in an informal style about a young woman with an unusual and often stressful background. Her father was a psychologist and she is out of touch with her two siblings.

There's quite a mystery surrounding the disappearance of the brother and sister, including a very surprising revelation a few chapters into the book - and the writing is good, though I doubt if I'll read this again.

Recommended, on the whole, if you don't mind quite a strong agenda almost hidden in an informal style of writing.

Longer review here: https://suesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2022/03/we-are-all-completely-beside-oursel... ( )
  SueinCyprus | Mar 26, 2022 |
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a most unusual family story which takes sibling rivalry and family secrets to a whole new level. The reader meets Rosemary Cooke, protagonist, as a young adult learning to have meaningful friendships. Rosemary’s sister and brother have been estranged from the family, and Rosemary has harbored resentment toward her parents for years. Both parents have serious coping issues that the author reveals once the true identity of Fern, Rosemary’s sister, becomes known.

After a few chapters, it becomes evident that Rosemary’s childhood was unusual since Fern, whom she viewed as her sister, is a chimp. Her father was a psychology professor and raised the two girls as an elaborate experiment. Her brother did not approve of some of the family’s decisions and went astray. The author creates a fascinating story focused on human relationships and relationships with animals. The text certainly made me wonder about human characteristics, emotions, and instincts. She also inspired thought-provoking questions about experiences at the earliest stages of life and their powerful impact upon the human psyche. Of course, taking animals out of their natural habitats and imprinting them as humans is a central and ethical question that is a significant part of the story. ( )
  LindaLoretz | Mar 11, 2022 |
What started as a reluctant book club read turned out to be one of my favorites of the year! I was swept right up by Rosemary’s dry narration and her extraordinary yet completely recognizable family. This book is clever, funny, achingly sad, and simply irresistible. Four and a half stars. ( )
  doryfish | Jan 29, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 226 (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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Epigraph
... 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"
Dedication
In memory of the wonderful Wendy Weil, champion of books, animals, and, in both categories, me
First words
Prologue
Those who know me now will be surprised to learn that I was a great talker as a child.
So the middle of my story comes in the winter of 1996.
Quotations
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Rosemary's young, just at college, and she's decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we're not going to tell you too much either: you'll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life... There's something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. So now she's telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice... It's funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you're telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern, don't feel bad. It's pretty hard to resist.

No library descriptions found.

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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