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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: A Novel Paperback – February 25, 2014
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Praise for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
“A novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get...[Its] fresh diction and madcap plot bend the tone toward comedy, but it never mislays its solemn raison d’être. Monkeyshines aside, this is a story of Everyfamily in which loss engraves relationships, truth is a soulful stalker and coming-of-age means facing down the mirror, recognizing the shape-shifting notion of self.”—Barbara Kingsolver, The New York Times Book Review
“Fowler’s interests here are in what sets humans apart from their fellow primates. Cognitive, language and memory skills all come into playful question. But the heart of the novel—and it has a big, warm, loudly beating heart throughout—is in its gradually pieced-together tale of family togetherness, disruption and reconciliation. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is Fowler at her best, mixing cerebral and emotional appeal together in an utterly captivating manner.”—The Seattle Times
“Elegantly and humorously orchestrated...Knitting together Rosemary’s at times poignant, at times hilarious scraps of uncovered memories, Fowler creates a fantastical tale of raw, animalistic love.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“[The novel] lies somewhere between psychological thriller, scientific theory and coming-of-age story, a seemingly untenable combination. But Fowler, through wit and mastery of her craft, handles the complexity effortlessly.”—USA Today
“This brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense.”—The Miami Herald
“Rosemary’s voice—vulnerable, angry, shockingly honest—is so compelling and the cast of characters, including Fern, irresistible. A fantastic novel: technically and intellectually complex, while emotionally gripping.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“Piquant humor, refulgent language, a canny plot rooted in real-life experiences, an irresistible narrator, threshing insights, and tender emotions—Fowler has outdone herself in this deeply inquisitive, cage-rattling novel.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A strong, unsettling novel...Fowler explores the depths of human emotions and delivers a tragic love story that captures our hearts.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Rosemary’s experience [is] a fascinating basis for insight into memory, the mind, and human development.”—Publishers Weekly
“In this curious, wonderfully intelligent novel, Karen Joy Fowler brings to life a most unusual family. Wonderful Fern, wonderful Rosemary! Through them we feel what it means to be a human animal.”—Andrea Barrett, author of Servants of the Map and Ship Fever
“Karen Joy Fowler has written the book she's always had in her to write. With all the quiet strangeness of her amazing Sarah Canary, and all the breezy wit and skill of her beloved Jane Austen Book Club, and a new, urgent gravity, she has told the story of an American family. An unusual family—but aren't all families unusual? A very American, an only-in-America family—and yet an everywhere family, whose children, parents, siblings, love one another very much, and damage one another badly. Does the love survive the damage? Will human beings survive the damage they do to the world they love so much? This is a strong, deep, sweet novel.”—Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Lavinia, The Unreal and the Real, and the Earthsea Cycle
“We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but. This novel is deliciously jaunty in tone and disturbing in material. Karen Joy Fowler tells the story of how one animal—the animal of man—can simultaneously destroy and expand our notion of what is possible.”—Alice Sebold, New York Times-bestselling author of The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon
“You know how people say something is incredible or unbelievable when they mean it's excellent? Well, Karen Joy Fowler's new book is excellent: utterly believable and completely credible - a funny, moving, entertaining novel that is also an important and unblinking review of a shameful chapter in the history of science.”—Dr. Mary Doria Russell, biological anthropologist and author of The Sparrow and Doc
“It’s been years since I’ve felt so passionate about a book. When I finished at 3 a.m., I wept, then I woke up the next morning, reread the ending, and cried all over again.”—Ruth Ozeki, author of My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being
“This unforgettable novel is a dark and beautiful journey into the heart of a family, an exploration of the meanings of memory, a study of what it means to be ‘human.’ In the end the book doesn't just break your heart; it takes your heart and won't give it back.”—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply and Stay Awake
“A funny, stingingly smart, and heartbreaking book. Among other things, it's about love, family, loss, and secrets; the acquisition and the loss of language. It's also about two sisters, Rosemary and Fern, who are unlike any other sisters you've ever met before.”—Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Pretty Monsters
About the Author
Karen Joy Fowler, a PEN/Faulkner and California Book Award winner, is the author of six novels (two of them New York Times bestsellers) and four short story collections. She has been a Dublin IMPAC nominee, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
Top customer reviews
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Over and above the dysfunctionality of the family, however, is the book’s internal concern on animal experimentations and the ethics of the handling the animals by scientists and the laboratories. To say more on the subject would be giving away the plot.
From where I stand, I can say that this book was a delightful surprise, although it has dark, shattering and deeply moving sides to it. The wit of the speaker, the brilliance in the unfolding of the plot, the depth in the scenes, and the handling of tension and suspense are absolutely exquisite.
To take a different plot of such an unusual family, to make their story absolutely believable, and to give it a heart as well is not any run-of-the-mill author’s feat. For this novel, Karen Joy Fowler deserves a huge applause.
I am so glad I stumbled upon this book, because I loved it. I found myself intentionally slowing down at the end, savoring it, and then coming back to it, and re-reading the ending. Fowler's writing is just amazing. And I can't remember liking a narrator as much as I like Rosemary in many years. There are elements of Scout from in there that I love: a willingness to be honest and to admit downfalls that I adored.
The story isn't worth trying to re-cap as it (the story) cannot be done justice. I just recommend that more people read it.
I am in the same place now another reviewer described: in book euphoria. I loved the book. Didn't want it to end. And now that it's over, I don't know what to read, and I'm a little afraid of being disappointed.
But the reality of things is that the book has gotten so much attention, the story enough hype, that the surprise is no longer a mystery. Rosemary reveals the nut of the novel when she says, "I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee" And then adds, "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."
This is a book about the relationship between Rosemary and Fern, her "sister," but more so, it is an examination of what it means to be a family. And in addition to Rosemary and Fern, the Cooke family makes up a sideshow of characters that includes dad, mom and brother Lowell. There's a lot of family wackiness (read humor) caring and tenderness, to drive Fowler's story. But what you remember is the heartbreak and longing that is what really defines the relationship members of this family have with each other.
Fern was removed from the family when both she and Rosemary were six. And there's the pivot of the story. Rosemary, in her circumspect way, goes on with her life as a child and then an adult and that's the arc of the story. Enrolled at the University of California - Davis, Rosemary hitches up with another crazy cast of characters, roomies who sit around together to play "whose family is the weirdest," a game that as it turns out even Rosemary has a tough time winning.
Fowler's way with words, her phrasing and her ability to handle dialogue to make talk sound like singing are what make this book feel fresh; I felt as if I was reading an author with a new voice. And that's refreshing, and makes the book such a rewarding read.
In a word: Piquant