We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  12,444 ratings  ·  2,384 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...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published May 30th 2013 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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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...more
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...more
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?
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
~~Dani ♥ 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
jordan
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
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

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...more
Julie
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 Austin 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...more
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
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...more
Melki
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathy
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
Elizabeth
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)...more
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...more
Jill
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...more
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...more
Doreen
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...more
Cheryl
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.
Next.
Catherine Sutthoff Slaton
Bought the book on Sunday, started it on Monday, finished it on Wednesday morning. I would say I wished it had been volume one in a ten volume set, but then I wouldn't see my family for the next month. Hmm. Tough one.

Darn you Fowler. I have written nothing since I opened this book. My usual M.O. is to journal and read in the morning, then hit the laptop and start working away on whatever writing is on the to-do list, then do the dishes. I couldn't get away from this book, and eventually quit sho...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
Jaylia3
What if for the first five years of your life you were raised with a chimp as your twin sister, only to have her taken away? That's the emotionally fraught premise of this absorbing and disconcerting novel. Though it moves around in time, the story flows in a seamless riveting stream as told by Rosemary, the sometimes flippant first person narrator.

Each family member reacts differently: the mother is incapacitated by despair, the academic father whose experiment this was is defensive, the broth...more
Olga Hebert
i love many books, but I am stingy when it comes to giving out the five stars. For me, a book must take me in and hold on so tight I cannot be distracted by children and pets who are hungry and need to be fed, by an urgent appointment, sirens and smoke billowing from the house next door. It must capture me so completely that I do not want to put it down. But, then, when I get almost to the end, I do put it down with such a feeling of bittersweet sadness because I do not want the book to end. I w...more
Carolyn
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
Dhitri
I loved this book! Loved it so much that I don't really know where to start with the review. Should I start by telling you about the big twist (impossible to review the book without mentioning the big twist, so you can stop reading this review now, if you hate spoilers).. or should I focus on the witty and engaging narrator, the quirky characters and the unconventional "start-from-the-middle" structure?

Karen Joy Fowler tackles on the subject of dysfunctional families head on (a subject American...more
Hanne
I can be short: if you like contemporary fiction, you're in for a treat. But there’s a catch: you have to read it without reading any review and apparently also without reading the back cover. The back cover of my version was clean, but I hear some of them are not. So, don’t read any reviews, and skip reading the back cover.

Why? There is a surprise twist you’re not supposed to know when you start reading, and unfortunately the twist is spoiled in many reviews. Which also means I’m in difficult...more
Phrynne
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.
Kelly
I started out a skeptic and ended up a follower. Well done, Ms. Fowler. Your characters are deep and engaging and I was so convinced by the end of the story that it was autobiographical that I had to read the acknowledgment mentioning your daughter twice.

The book began slowly for me, as I adjusted to the writing style of "Rosie", our narrator. She's prone to skipping around a lot and to using a lot of big words. At first I attributed the stiltedness to the author, but eventually decided that it...more
Alena
I just loved this book, starting with its unusual premise, all the way through Fowler's pitch perfect writing, and "unfinished" ending.

She strikes right at the heart of what it means to be a family through the eyes of Rosemary. We know at the start that Rosemary has lost her sister Fern. She hasn't seen her brother Lowell in many years and feels disconnected from her parents. The rest of the book tells Rosemary's version of how all that comes to pass, while at the same time moving forward to her...more
Cheryl in CC NV
Nov 30, 2013 Cheryl in CC NV marked it as library-to-read
Shades of some other excellent books I've read... Most especially Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, which is aimed at YA but can be enjoyed by anyone.

For a related, but more mature read, consider The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale. There's also the nonfiction memoir Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes. And another YA Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby.

There's also Jennie by Douglas Preston and His Monkey Wife by John Collier, but I've not read tho...more
Jen
Where is the intersection of truth and memory? What do we hide from ourselves in the dark recesses of our minds to protect us from our past?

Meet Rosemary Cooke, a lost and lonely 22 year old who has just been arrested for throwing milk in her college cafeteria. She'll be the first to admit that her story starts in the middle, and it's quite obvious she's avoiding something. At first, all we know is that her sister, Fern, disappeared when she was 5 years old and that the two were inseparable. Be...more
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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
More about Karen Joy Fowler...
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.” 32 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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