We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler ~Goodreads~
Published by Serpent’s Tail 2014
Kindle 337 pages ~The Book Depository~
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, round about page 77, 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 quite unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble. So now she’s telling her story: full of hilarious asides and brilliantly spiky lines, its a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning.
I don’t see how I can say much of my thoughts on this book, as its one of those where if you say too much you’ll give too much away and spoil it for others but I’ll try my best!
I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this book in the beginning, it took me a while to get to grips with what was going on. In the beginning Rosemary’s father begins the book with “start in the middle” in which Rosemary should tell her story- so this instantly puzzles you as to the importance of how the story is told. You’re instantly given the impression that the Cooke family is dysfunctional.
Rosemary, not so much a likeable character she’s a little strange and quite rightly so. The layout of her story is a little bit all over the place which adds the image of the family being a dysfunctional one. For what I thought to begin with was rather a quirky story with different characters, some much more different than others which you’ll find a surprise at around page 77 so we’re told- referring to her sister Fern. And believe me this did give me a surprise and instantly made me fascinated with the book, if anything it was puzzling at first and yet it all came together in the end as Rosemary unravels her story.
The book evokes how we experience the past, of how our childhood memories are quite distinct but other times quite cloudy. Throughout the book we are aware that how she remembers is experiencing something isn’t quite how they way it actually happened. It makes you question how true your own experiences does the representation of memory seem. It shows the relationships between siblings and how one can be lonely without the other and yet their is always some level of jealousy and competitive energy towards gaining a parents affections. Something I’m sure many of us can relate to with our own siblings, a sense of rivalry and yet we have this unconditional love for them regardless.
Karen Fowler explores interesting scientific, psychological, and ethical issues without being too technical.
Obviously I can’t go into much detail as to what I mean by this as it would give a big revelation of the book to you. All I can confirm is that his book is something I enjoyed very much despite mixed opinions to begin with, if you give it a go and feel like giving up- carry on it gets better!