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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  32,829 ratings  ·  5,239 reviews
Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrori
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published May 30th 2013 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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Anna Agree to the 10th degree. If you can't be kind to anything smaller than you, weaker than you, less advantaged than you, or harmless to you, then it is…moreAgree to the 10th degree. If you can't be kind to anything smaller than you, weaker than you, less advantaged than you, or harmless to you, then it is a mark of something sinister. Lack of compassion makes way for enjoyment of violence without purpose.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kater Cheek
I've always used the goodreads star rating:
5=it was amazing
4=really liked it
3=liked it
2=it was okay
1=did not like

Which means that I ruin the scale for all the books I review, because most people seem to use the following scale:
5=liked it
4=it was okay
3=it was boring and/or poorly written
2=it had huge flaws, and was barely readable.
1=I don't like the author/disagree with the author's opinion on a politicized subject

I sometimes feel guilty about all my average "liked it" star ratings in a world o
Kathy Guilbert
I could not relate to the characters and the choppy writing style! Wanted to like this book, and there were interesting elements, but I couldn't connect to the way the story was told. Forced myself to even skim the book. Am I the only person, it seems, who did not like it?
Jan Priddy
Jun 22, 2013 Jan Priddy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone!
“She’d just rear-ended a cop car and she said that only the week before she’d been arrested shoplifting tortillas and salsa for a Sunday afternoon football party at her house. ‘This is so not good,’ she told me. ‘Honestly, I have the worst luck.’ ”

Luck? That's not luck, that's typical stupid choices leading to disaster. I started laughing almost immediately because this sounded so familiar.

I am a longtime fan of Fowler’s work going back to Sarah Canary. WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES wa
Robert Blumenthal
Okay. So if I was to give Karen Joy Fowler advice on how to write a great novel, I'd tell her to come with an engaging, intelligent and witty narrator and have her tell a captivating, moving and timely story and do it in a compelling and original way. Oh wait. I don't have to, because she just did all that in her latest totally wonderful novel entitled We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. This is a novel that is best read with as little pre-knowledge as possible. It starts out as a seemingly ...more
Kat Stark

Safe to say that this wasn’t a favorite for me. Again, not a terrible book, but definitely not for me…

People are so wary of spoilers in this one, so I won’t really even talk about the plot or anything like that at all. I didn’t like the characters, story, or writing (mostly because I couldn’t connect and there were stylistic choices that really turned me off in the beginning).

This book is all about the relationship between humans and animals and the dividing line that separates the two. That lin
Yep, I was beside myself!
Kept imagining I was not still reading this!!

Borrrring ... dulllll ...teeeeedious ... and more than a little drawn out.

I really wanted to like it as I was excited to see a new release from Fowler. I enjoyed The Jane Austen Book Club (although it is one of those rare books where I actually liked the movie better).

The whiny main character (the voice of this first-person narrative) got on my nerves; no wonder she had difficulty forming even fictional friendships. I couldn't
Lisa Vegan
Jan 05, 2014 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my read world book club
Recommended to Lisa by: Kathy
This book got me out of my very long reading slump. It was such an easy book to read, yet it was wonderfully complex. I sank into it as I hadn’t sunk into a book for a long time. It felt wonderful.

So, so funny. So wise. So psychologically smart and sophisticated. So entertaining. Not a false note, though the very ending wasn’t perfect for me, but it was okay. I loved all the literary and psychology/science references. Devastating too as it was emotionally raw. Complicated in a perfect way. It’s
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

4.5 Stars

“In everyone’s life there are people who stay and people who go and people who are taken away against their will.”

This is the story of three siblings: Rosemary (who stayed), Lowell (who went), and Fern (who was taken away).

The only reason I even gave this book a chance was because some of my Goodreads friends were reading it and giving it many stars. I mean, the other book I recognized as being written by the author was Th
~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~
Due to various comments regarding the "spoilers" in my original review, I have added spoiler tags below. Disclaimer: I do NOT think this review contains spoilers. I'm super careful of this and would never give away an essential surprise of a story. The so-called "spoilers" are the main plot point and are described in detail in the description of the book found above. So if you've read the book description or read anything about this novel in a magazine review or author interview, don't worry abo ...more
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has generated a lot of hype and gathered a large amount of positive reception, including praise from authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Andrea Barrett. But undoubtedly the biggest boost of all was the inclusion on the shortlist for the Booker Prize. This year's Booker was the first of its kind, as it has controversially accepted works by authors from outside the UK and the Commonwealth - and for a moment it looked as if the book by Karen Joy Fowler, an A ...more
Karen Fowler writes Science Fiction stories. Great ones. She’s won the prestigious Nebula Award, not once but twice. Now no doubt you are wondering, so what? If you know anything about Fowler’s tear-provoking, often hilarious, brilliantly realized new novel, “We are All Completely Beside Ourselves,” than surely you know that it isn’t a work of science fiction. If you’ve suffered the misfortune of reading most reviews, than you know this novel’s great reveal. Spoiler alert here: I will give you n ...more
Barry Pierce
Further proof that the 2014 Man Booker Prize was an absolute farce. I was enjoying this novel until it went all Jane Goodall. I applaud its use of an unconventional narrative structure and Fowler's humourous prose but the plot just bored me. Like a sandwich from Quiznos, I had to really force myself to finish it. It would be fine without all the monkey business.
Scott Rhee
Someone recommended Karen Joy Fowler's novel "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves", and, I'll be honest, I was hesitant to read it because she also wrote "The Jane Austen Book Club", a book which I haven't read but which seemed like the kind of chick lit that I can't stand---a group of women from all walks of life, bonding over some kind of club (be it knitting, cooking, books, traveling pants, or Downton Abbey), talking about how shitty their relationships are or reminiscing about the dream ...more
The most absorbing books I read have a vital lesson at their core: they teach me what it means to be human. Karen Joy Fowler’s latest book tackles this crucial theme and by doing so, captured my heart and reduced me to tears.

There is no getting around that this is an agenda book. Ms. Fowler’s purpose is to show us—through fiction—that the most complicated animal – the human animal can be disastrous to the rest of the animal kingdom through sheer arrogance.

Typically, I avoid authorial intrusion l
Diane Yannick
Ok, so this book is receiving high critical acclaim, yet I gave it 3 stars. Let me try to explain. I think Fowler's writing is mostly fine. There were a few points where the figurative language seemed forced to me, but no huge complaints. I liked the way Fowler often spoke directly to the reader.

The plotting was fine too. It didn't bother me that she skipped from the middle of the story to the past and the present. It didn't bother me a bit that "the reveal", which you'd have to be living in a
Diane S.

This was a very different type of novel for this author, a novel that was not easy to write because at any time it could have easily crossed over into the absurd and it did not. It was humorous at times but always at the core there was an element of seriousness.

This is a story that covers many complex issues, 1970's was a time of experimental animal psychology which of course led to many animal abuses and stories, that at times are very difficult to read. It is really too bad that in the book's
This isn't going to be a long review, because I don't want to ruin this book for anyone. Seriously, don't click on the title. Don't read any other reviews. Because all I knew going into We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was that it was about some type of dysfunctional family. And really, that can mean anything. And it's so much better that way!

I loved the tone of the book, the dry humour and the elegance of the writing, how it's entertaining but appropriately sad and serious at times. The n
This was another of those impulse buys in a bookshop, but a far better class of bookshop (Hatchards Piccadilly, the oldest bookshop in London, and an absolute marvel, especially in this day and age: a bookshop that sells books! Torture when you are travelling with hand luggage only, but I did post some books to myself before they threw me off the plane for being overweight) and a far better read too. Admittedly I was near to putting it back on the pile, and only the fact that I'd recently heard ...more
Although this novel is assigned six parts to it, for me it is separated into two parts, before the big reveal and after. At first, I was bothered by the big reveal, and it annoyed me in the sense of having been tricked or snookered into believing that the book would be about one thing, and, then, a huge monkey-wrench (only the-already-have-read-it will truly appreciate that term) is tossed into the perceived story to come. That the reveal comes almost 100 pages into the book seemed particularly ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Just two stars for this one because for me it was just an okay book. No spoilers but the big reveal about Fern which is supposed to make the book more interesting just ruined it for me. I was expecting one thing and got another and it all became a bit too wacko for my taste. Rosemary was a very weak, unlikeable character and I just wanted to smack Harlow. And then for a big finale we discover that Rosemary's memory of events was not to be relied upon anyway. So basically it was all for nothing.
Rebecca Foster
(2.5) I seem to be a lone dissenting voice in the sea of praise for this novel. It is a quick, compelling read, but compared to other books on the subject, and even to other family stories generally, I thought it was light and even silly in places. At the same time, it’s emotionally manipulative and relies too heavily on narrative trickery, namely a “twist” I knew about before I began reading. Others will love it, I’m sure, and it will foster plenty of debate as a book club selection. Still, it ...more
Jun 13, 2014 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Elizabeth by: ruth ozeki
Shelves: fiction
Such a surprise, this book. I was lucky enough to not know much about this one- only that it generated much buzz and seemed to be one of those that everyone was talking about. Then, in reading an interview about Ruth Ozeki I took note when she recommended it.

So glad I did.

The structure was quite salient. Almost to a fault. But in the end (ha!) I think it worked. And the story. It was just atypical enough. It was rough to read certain scenes: (view spoiler)
Mar 09, 2014 Cheryl added it
Shelves: america, fiction
oh come ON! I reached the big reveal that many reviewers (but not the publishers it seems) are trying so hard to avoid mentioning.
The narrator thought some of us might be irritated by her coy refusal to wait so long before explaining her secret. She was right.
Plot line and precocious babbling voice aren't enough. This reads like a YA novel.
Jen Estrella
I LOVED this book. It was the sweetest, most heart breaking story and it was told it such a unique and interesting way.

I'd give this a solid 4.5, but maybe a 4.6 because I learned in the 5 star direction rather than the 4.

I heard some people say that it would be a lot better to come into this story without reading anything about it or doing any background research, and I agree to some extent.. but my thoughts are that I think I benefited from having had a little knowledge on the subject beforeha
I really didn't enjoy this book as much as I expected to given the rave reviews it has received. It started off well enough as we are introduced to Rosemary's dysfunctional family. We are told that her brother, Lowell and sister, Fern have disappeared from her life and this has led to her mother having a complete breakdown from which she never really recovered. As a result of her siblings' disappearance, Rosemary has never felt able to talk about them with other people and has never been able to ...more
4.5 stars at the very least.
Without giving away one of the first reveals in the telling of the story, it is at face about a family of five that suddenly is a family of four. Rosemary was five years old when her sister left, and her memories are foggy at best about what exactly occurred. This is partly because her mother did not want to discuss it, partly that her brother Lowell also left shortly thereafter, and partly because Rosemary herself suppressed the horrific events of that time period.
Apr 12, 2013 Doreen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: elle
It bothers me that the book itself doesn't reveal the truth about Fern till page 79, but pretty much all the promotional blurbs I've read for it (excepting Marian Wood's introductory letter, bless her) tell you flat out. I understand that it's hard to review this book without touching on the truth, as the matter of who Fern is makes up a very large portion of the pages that remain, but it still seems a disservice to the reader to take away that one disconcerting surprise.

Anyway, the book itself
Nabse Bamato
If you are considering reading this you probably already know what it's about, especially given the coverage that it's had since being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I was one of the lucky ones. I managed, somehow, not to know what the huge curveball is that hits you about a third of the way into the novel so its effect on me was as dramatic as it was supposed to be. You start reading one book and, when you find the crucial piece of information, you realise you are reading a completely di ...more
Ron Charles
You know Karen Joy Fowler, though probably only for her least representative novel — that charming bestseller “The Jane Austen Book Club.” It landed with perfectly calibrated Janite wit in 2004 during a wave of renewed enthusiasm for Austen and book clubs. But aside from that domesticated crowd-pleaser, Fowler is also the author of genre-blending works of historical fiction and fantasy. Her stories have won the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award. In 1991, she co- ...more
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About Karen Joy Fowler

1448 I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. I was due on Valentine's Day but arrived a week early; my mother blamed this on a really exciting IU basketball game. My father was a psychologist at the University, but not that kind of psychologist. He studied animal behavior, and especially learning. He ran rats through mazes. My mother was a polio survivor, a schoolteacher, and a pioneer in the co-operative ...more
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  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
  • Instructions for a Heatwave
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  • History of the Rain
  • Brewster
  • Florence Gordon
  • A Marker to Measure Drift
  • Half the Kingdom: A Novel
  • The People in the Trees
  • The Spinning Heart
  • The Banks of Certain Rivers
  • Flora
  • Amity & Sorrow
  • Schroder
The Jane Austen Book Club Sarah Canary Wit's End What I Didn't See: Stories Sister Noon

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“When I run the world, librarians will be exempt from tragedy. Even their smaller sorrows will last only for as long as you can take out a book.” 78 likes
“The happening and telling are very different things. This doesn’t mean that the story isn’t true,
only that I honestly don’t know anymore if I really remember it or only remember how to tell it. Language does this to our memories, simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An off-told story is like a photograph in a family album. Eventually it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”
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