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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves [Kindle Edition]

Karen Joy Fowler
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,017 customer reviews)

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Book Description

***Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014***





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 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, it's 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 - it's pretty hard to resist - don't worry. One of the few studies Rosemary doesn't quote says that spoilers actually enhance reading.


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Review

'A novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get' Barbara Kingsolver, New York Times Book Review

'A dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but' Alice Sebold

'Fowler has given us the gift of a splendid novel. Not only is the story fascinating, moving, and beautifully written, but also it ripples with humor; its quirky characters include a puppet named Madame Defarge and a Seinfeldian assortment of apartment dwellers. Layered with a huge moral compass and enormous humanity, this portrait of a family one-fifth simian will, nevertheless, touch and delight every human 'Boston Globe

'Hinges upon Rosemary's sharp voice, which at its best includes funny, self-aware asides such as an early reference to a character at a holiday dinner where she flippantly advises the reader, "Don't get attached to him; he's not really part of this story' LA Times

'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is that rare thing, a comic novel that wrestles seriously with serious moral questions ... Fowler knows how to make her story funny and sad and disturbing and revelatory by erecting a space in which her reader is allowed to feel all of that for herself' Salon

'So thought provoking on the topic of animal rights that it could alter your future decisions as a consumer. I don't want to say much about the plot of the book ... except to compare it to Ann Patchett's State of Wonder in terms of weaving a larger story of radical, scientific experimentation into a very personal woman's narrative' MSN

'Rosemary's voice is achingly memorable, and Fowler's intelligent discourse on science vs. compassion reshapes the traditional family novel into something more universally relevant... This brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense' Miami Herald

'Halfway through Karen Joy Fowler's enthralling novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I was sort of beside myself, too, with that electric thrill of discovering a great book. I wanted to stay up all night to finish it, but I also wanted to stop and call all my book-loving friends immediately and blurt, "You have to read this book!" ' Cleveland Plain Dealer

'[A]n unsettling, emotionally complex story that plumbs the mystery of our strange relationship with the animal kingdom - relatives included' Ron Charles, Washington Post

'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

'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

'Are we animals, or are we something else? This is the urgent question ever roiling beneath the surface in Karen Fowler's alarming tale of a family's rude awakening to the true meaning of the word "primal." Reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is both a delight and a provocation. I turned the last page nearly breathless with admiration' Valerie Martin

'One of the greatest pleasures I take in reading is being able to hand over the books that thrill me, which this summer would be Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves' Ann Patchett, Wall Street Journal

'A gripping and surreptitiously intelligent book about a family's falling apart after a young daughter is sent away. Who - or what - the young daughter is can't be discussed without revealing a major spoiler, suffice it to say it is a whopper. The book is far deeper and more ambitious, however, than its central conceit would lead one to think' Khaled Hosseini

'Intelligent and forces the reader to question what we owe our fellow creatures' Elizabeth George

'This surreptitiously smart novel's big reveal slyly recalls a tabloid headline' New York Times, Notable Books 2013

'Spectacular, deep, zingy ... Simultaneously a high-speed antic and an absolutely essential meditation on nothing less than what it means to be a good person ... I gasped aloud and put this book down more than once, filled with ache and worry for the characters; I laughed aloud several times; and when it was done, the big questions it raised about kindness, empathy, and cruelty lingered with me and show no signs of fading. It's one thing to write a deep book. It's another altogether to write a deep book that clips along like a pop song, one that periodically skewers you on events and questions that pin you to the world and demand that you confront things that we've all carefully avoided for most of our lives' Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

'One of the best twists in years makes this novel unique, captivating and so moving it will stay with you for a long time' Stylist

Book Description

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014

By the author of worldwide bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club: you can't choose your family, but they can make choices for you. Big, life-defining choices. Winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2085 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (6 Mar. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668966X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846689666
  • ASIN: B00EZTLN62
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,017 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #356 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
By Ajoobacats VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I heard of this book through the TV Book Club on Facebook, and quickly judging it by its cover, without reading the description, was expecting some sort of romance/family saga, but what the book is actually about is quite a challenging read, as the story starts in the middle: Rose is a 22 year old college student at UC Davis, in her fifth year, with no firm thoughts of what to major in, however, she hides from her fellow students facts about her family. she doesn't tell them she has an older brother, Lovell, or an older sister, Fern. Both siblings appear to be missing from the family and as you progress through the book you learn that Rose's mother had a breakdown when she was five years old, she was sent to live with one set of grandparents for a while until she orchestrated an escape. When found, her father returned for her and she was taken to a new home, where her parents and brother had moved to, but there was no Fern. During the descriptive narrative you pick up that Rose's formative memories are sketchy on a lot of things around the time Fern is lost and her mother is ill, however this point definitely established the before and after of the family. After, Lovell is unhappy and constantly running away and Fern is no longer there and it is Fern that kept me reading on, as I really needed to know what happened to her.

This book is funny and endearing in parts but is not an easy read, I found the narrative difficult to get into but once I had read a few chapters and acclimated the story did hook me. There is much angst and heartbreak in this story, and a lot of information about psychological experiments and protocol, however, weeding my way through all this information, what kept me reading was Rose's quest to find out what happened to Fern and then her quest to find her.

A difficult and rewarding read, definitely one which touched my heart, this is definitely a book to spark much discussion.
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204 of 228 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I am not exactly beside myself 6 Nov. 2014
By Rough Diamond TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I really wanted to like this but, sadly, I just couldn't. That's my loss, probably, as it's had plenty of positive reviews but, for what it's worth, here are the three things I disliked most about 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves':

1) The central idea of the book (the relationship between Rosemary and her sister Fern) is brilliant but, frustratingly, it seldom gets to take centre stage. It's as though the novel has ADHD, and rather than getting fully to grips with the amazing sibling relationship at its core, it's instead constantly being distracted by what ought to be its minor themes (family politics, animal rights activism), such that it ends up completely losing focus.

2) The plotting feels tremendously contrived, in the sense that every event in the plot is very clearly taking place for a predetermined didactic reason: THIS takes place to make THIS point, and then THAT takes place to make THAT point. It's frankly a bit claustrophobic for the reader. I felt like I was having my hand held by the author, to make sure I joined all the numbers correctly on a dot-to-dot puzzle. I didn't feel like I was being given any imaginative space of my own at all.

3) Rosemary, the book's narrator, has possibly the most gratingly glib narrative voice I've ever encountered. It could be that this is an amazing feat of literary ventriloquism. Karen Joy Fowler (who is now in her mid-60s) has created a perfectly convincing (and perfectly irritating) narrator who was only in her early 20s circa 1996, when most of the book's action takes place, and whose smug, arch and condescending 'Dear Reader' asides punctuate the narrative with dismaying regularity. Or equally it could be that Karen Joy Fowler is just inherently a smug, glib and condescending writer.
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92 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, wise, dazzlingly well-written 30 Oct. 2014
By Edie
Format:Paperback
It's hard to review this book because the extraordinary revelation about 70 pages in is what makes the story unique, but to spoil this for a new reader would be to rid narrator Rosemary of her intention: to get the reader to understand how normal her odd life was to her, before they pigeon hole it as extraordinary.
I loved this book. The structure is ambitious and it could have fallen flat. But it is the making of the novel. It starts in the middle - flips back and forth, with Rosemary remembering and misremembering, reinterpreting events as shreds of information arrive over the decades, to help her make sense of her life and work out what responsibility she had for the events that resulted in her sister's abrupt severance from the family. It was brave of Fowler to pick Rosemary as her narrator, since Rosemary knows almost nothing. The same story told from the dynamic reaction of her brother Lowell might have created a thrillerish level of suspense. But what Fowler excels at is making the extraordinary normal - really digging in deep to show how it might feel to have lived such a powerfully, socially alienating different life.
While the story is gripping and heart-wrenching, strongest of all is the characterisation of Rosemary. She's hard to like. But that reaction pulls a reader up short. There's nothing unpleasant about Rosemary. nothing bad or cruel. She's just...odd. Fowler shows us how easily we withdraw from the truly 'other' people around us. Not the sketched-in different-but-endearing characters that crop up in novels with, say, notionally Asbergic narrators, but someone potentially neuro-typical whose grounding in life makes her fundamentally different from us in every way, except in a way that makes it easy to categorise her as other.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Did not like the book at first but it turned out to be thought provoking
Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I thought.
Was disappointed after seeing this book recommended by a few book clubs, I'm wondering now whether they really read it or am I missing something?
I didn't like the book. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Natalia
4.0 out of 5 stars Took a while but once in I was captivated
I thought this was autobiographical. I would have never have guessed it was a 63 year old lady writing this. The last few pegs had me in tears...
Published 3 days ago by Helen w
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
It's a marmite one, this one, but I loved it. The main character is so complex which makes her behaviour completely unpredictable. The back story is fascinating - a great read.
Published 3 days ago by Pabat
3.0 out of 5 stars miseed opportunity to create an excellent book
I waited ages before reading this so came to it 'cold' having forgotten any earlier reviews I might have read so the identity of Fern came as a surprise. Read more
Published 3 days ago by hextol
5.0 out of 5 stars The less you know about this book the better. So I'm not going to risk...
The less you know about this book the better. So I'm not going to risk any spoilers here other than to say that this is a gripping story, very well told and featuring believable... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Dublinia
1.0 out of 5 stars Deadly boring
After page 80 I just skipped through it. Its so boring, you won't believe!
Published 8 days ago by Natalski
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read
Made my commute fly by each morning! Loved the order the timeline of the story was presented in. Notes at the end were interesting to read too and added to the story.
Published 8 days ago by Miss G L Crosswell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read ...
Interesting and unexpectedly moving ...
Published 8 days ago by Angie Gilmore
4.0 out of 5 stars It's heart is in the right place I think
A little worthy perhaps, but a good read nonetheless. The central reveal is a delight.
Published 9 days ago by London or bust
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