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We are All Completely Beside Ourselves [Paperback]

Karen Joy Fowler
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Mar 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 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 - it's pretty hard to resist - don't worry.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd (6 Mar 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1781252955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781252956
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 11 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 602,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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 No contemporary writer creates characters more appealing, or examines them with greater acuity and forgiveness, than she does -- Michael Chabon 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 Ozecki

Book Description

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Monkey Business 27 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a difficult book to review without giving too much of the central conceit away. It is about a young girl who has a difficult childhood with her alcoholic academic anthropologist father and her hopeless mother which is made worse when her ersatz twin sister and brother disappear. The reasons why unravel later in the book so it is unfair to say what they are. The book is a study of the girl's fractured personality and how she emerges from these damaging beginnings, falls in and out with some unsavoury people and catches up with her brother to achieve some kind of happy ending.

A lot of people seem to like this book so where did it get too hairy for me? First off, I didn't warm to any of the characters or find their lives interesting. Second, third and fourth, the bits about telling me about this or that later grated with me, about midway the book got polemical about its main theme, and the ending was too pat.

It is nicely written in parts and, sometimes, quite funny. There is quite an interesting discussion about identity and personality lurking behind the text but it never seems to go anywhere.

So, only three stars. If you are an animal lover you might give it more but it didn't push my buttons.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read if you have things that need doing 31 Mar 2014
By Chantal Lyons VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had the twist in the story spoiled for me by a review in The Times, but I'm glad about it, because in spite of the other glowing reviews, books that are simply about people's messed-up families don't normally appeal to me. This one, though, has a unique concept at its heart that elevates it above many of the books in its genre. It's especially recommended for animal-lovers.

Fowler's writing, apart from a few instances of purple prose, is highly immersive, and the humour is dry and well-observed. Once you know exactly why Rosemary Cooke's family is so unusual, the book's emotional heft comes from discovering in piece-meal fashion the inevitable yet still hard-hitting revelations of the past. This is a story that simply won't let you go, and will linger long after you've finished it. It poses hard questions and acknowledges that there may never be 'right' answers to them, and it thoughtfully explores the consequences of a real-life scientific experiment that was conducted in several families in the US in the twentieth century (if this doesn't make much sense, sorry - I don't want to give the twist away!)

Beautifully written, and bound to make your eyes prick with tears by the end. I especially appreciated the bitter-sweet ending. Life is rarely otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No spoilers here 5 April 2014
By Julia Flyte TOP 50 REVIEWER
Warning: Do not read reviews of this book unless they tell you up front that they will avoid spoilers. You will enjoy this book more if you let it reveal its story in its own good time (around the 80 page mark).

The book is narrated by Rosemary, a student at a university in California who bears the scars of turmoil in her family life growing up. She had a sister whom she lost at the age of 5 and a brother who left home when she was 11. The book is about how she comes to terms with those events and learns the truth about what happened.

I loved the way the book is told. Rosemary has such a frank, funny and fresh outlook on the world. When I started this book I thought it was going to become a firm favourite for me. However as the book went on, I got a bit fed up with the way that Rosemary wallows in her emotions. In this sense it feels like a YA book, that nothing is as interesting to Rosemary as Rosemary is, and the characters that come into her life are all larger than life too. Her friend Harlow is reminiscent of Alaska in Waiting for Alaska which I was perhaps alone in failing to be charmed by.

It's an original and thought provoking book but somewhere along the line it weakened its grip on me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really mixed feelings 3 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
1996. The narrator, a young woman of 22, is in her fifth year at university, not in a hurry to graduate any time soon. She used to have a brother and sister but they have mysteriously vanished. She gets into trouble during an altercation in the refectory and is briefly arrested. So far, so good.

The novel is well written and it starts strongly but I got bogged down in its self-conscious mysteriousness and the explanation, when it came, was a disappointment. I very much wanted to like it, but I couldn't quite.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and thought-provoking 29 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is an intelligent, original, thought-provoking and totally compelling book, and one that is very difficult to review or discuss without giving a major-plot twist, which comes quite a way into the narrative, away. A lot of reviewers are falling over themselves to say they’d guessed it anyway but I didn’t, and the book became a more powerful one for me for the delay. Fowler says she has now made her peace with the problem of the reveal, and didn’t really realise the implications of it before publication. I’m certainly not going to provide any spoilers here.
That doesn’t stop me from enthusing about the book. It’s about a family in Indiana, where the father, a psychologist, involves his family in some controversial animal behaviour experimentation. Based on real-life experiments where families adopted chimpanzees, Fowler has done an enormous amount of research which she here puts to good effect. With great empathy and understanding, Fowler examines the impact of animal experimentation on both human and animals. There’s a lot to like and enjoy in this book, and also a lot to learn. I doubt I’m the only one who went off to find out more after finishing it. I thoroughly recommend it and it’s a novel that will remain with me for a long time as I continue to ponder the subject matter.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking
Sweet, sensitive, thought provoking witnout becoming didactic. Deals with sibling loss, the nature of humanity, communication in an easy to read style.
Published 1 day ago by Mrs. Rachel Jnekins
5.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Story
A splendid story. Full credit to Karen Fowler writing a story that is so different that the plot stands out. I have never read a story like this before. Read more
Published 1 day ago by ireadnovels
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
I liked the surprise twist if Fern being a chimp.I did not see that coming. I liked the fact that sibling rivalry might be the same in different species. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Janine Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Reading reviews it is clear that this book divides opinions. As every else says it is also difficult to review in detail without spoiling it for future readers. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Tony
5.0 out of 5 stars JUST WONDERFUL!!!!!
This was wonderful from start to finish. I kind of knew the subject matter but it didnt ruin it at all for me. Read more
Published 5 days ago by mt b r thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharp and witty family saga with a difference
It was the title that intrigued me and drew me to this book. I had read one of Karen Joy Fowler’s novels before – The Jane Austen Book Club, which I found pleasant enough (ouch)... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Denise4891
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this thoughtful novel
Really different - intriguing and certainly kept me page turning avidly. Would recommend whether you are vegetarian, vegan or not.
Published 11 days ago by Emerald Mermaid
3.0 out of 5 stars Too chatty and rather annoying.
I ordered this book through the vine program and the danger of that, is that you are sometimes tempted to order books you would not normally go for. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Ann Fairweather
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one book...
The Best Book I've read in a long while. Its a 'Dear Reader...' voice and drew me into the complex tale straight away. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Karolina Knapton
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing -
Unlike anything I have read before -clever and thought provoking -to say more would spoil the plot - just read this book
Published 12 days ago by tappy
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