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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  114,836 ratings  ·  12,401 reviews
The New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club introduces a middle-class American family, ordinary in every way but one...

Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, Lowell, Rosemary and her unusual sister Fern. Rosemary begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “Until Fern’s expulsion...,” Rosemary says, “she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my w
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published May 30th 2013 by Plume
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Donna Marino I completely agree. Compassion begins with those who are smaller, weaker, and have less advantages than us. Humans (mistakenly) believe that they are …moreI completely agree. Compassion begins with those who are smaller, weaker, and have less advantages than us. Humans (mistakenly) believe that they are superior beings and therefore can assert dominion over those who are "lesser" than them. And I'm tired of hearing that just because I think animals deserve to be treated with respect and compassion that I don't care about humans. Caring for animals does not imply that I don't care about humans.(less)

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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Kater Cheek
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: skimmed, 2013-books
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? ...more
Jan Priddy
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“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
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I just settled a debate with myself. If you don’t know the premise of this book already, I decided not to be the one to tell you. As it happened, I did read this with foreknowledge and suspect I would have enjoyed it more without knowing the twist. Fowler gets to it soon enough. And if your jaw doesn’t drop, expect, at a minimum, to crack a smile.

Sans spoilers, I can still set the stage. Rosemary Cooke is a university student in California and in most ways fairly typical. She deviates most notab
Elyse Walters
Update: $1.99 Kindle special today! I loved it. --- For those who missed this book - it's a great discussion read!
I'm sure my other review must be around some place .... either way, this book is terrific ... less money than a cup of Starbucks latte!

Where the heck is my original review?
I read it when this book first came out...
Seems we had a long discussion going!

I say WOW!!!!! Emotionally charged!!!

It's a terrific book club pick!

Much to discuss!

Many side themes as well as major themes!!
…you've arrived smack in the middle of this review. I decided to skip the beginning where I might have discussed the plot, the writing, etc., and I’ll probably skip the end too because if there's no beginning, there’s really no need for an end.
So here we are in the middle, taking time out from the usual review stuff for a little reflection on reading, and life in general. What about a catchy ritzy aphorism to kick us off:
Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.(
I have an addiction.

It's a little something called "buying every book I see in a used bookstore that has won a major award and excusing it under the guise of becoming a genius / vague self-betterment / pretension."

Which is what happened with this one.

And this was...a strange reading experience?

I mean, it was fine. It was cool. Okay no not cool but yes fine. Average.

I liked the theme of anti-animal cruelty.

But otherwise this wasn't much up my alley.

Bottom line: Not bad just not for me et cetera a
Jan 21, 2021 added it
Shelves: us, booker, speed-dating
There is no rating because I did not finish. I decided not to put myself through books I do not enjoy or at least make me feel something so you will probably see me abandon more books from now on.
I decided to read this novel because the title sounded so interesting and it was shortlisted for The Booker Prize (why I can’t imagine).

The novel heavily depends on a big reveal (at around 25%) which was spoiled for me by many reviews. Because of that, I highly recommend anyone who wants to try this t
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. ...more
5 Stars.
I am Completely Overwhelmed with Emotion. And this is, without a doubt, one of my favorite books of the year.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the story of the Cooke’s, a wholly dysfunctional family, narrated by the youngest of three children, Rosemary. Rosemary grew up in a household, surrounded by attention, chaos and love. She and her siblings were incredibly close, and Rosemary and her sister Fern did everything together. And they adored their big brother Lowell. Rosemary wa
Elyse Walters
5+++++++++ STARS 5++++++ 5+++++

I have people in my yard --and little time to write a review --yet I could talk about this book for hours. Its a book which will leave a LASTING impression with me on 'many' accounts.

Here is a wonderful line in the book....(I just LIKED it) ---yet its not even what I would speak about FOR HOURS...

Here is the 'gem' (this is for YOU book lovers):

"When I run the world, librarians will be exempt from tragedy. Even their smaller sorrows will last only for as long as yo
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, usa
I dont know what i was expecting when i picked this up but im so glad i did.
I loved this book.
Such an unusual story.
Short chapters.
Learned so much. Lots to think about the welfare of animals.
Very emotional.
I knew nothing about this book going in and im so glad. The less you know the better.
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
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Rosemary Cooke talked non-stop as a child in Bloomington, Indiana but grew up to be a quiet student at The University of California, Davis. She's been in college too long, unable to settle on a major and troubled by the long ago disappearance of her sister and brother.

We come to learn that Rosemary's father was an experimental psychologist and - around the time Rosemary was born - the Cooke family took in an infant chimp to raise as a member of the family. The chimp, Fern, was reared as a siste
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 auth
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dysfunctional family story used to consider primates in research. It falls somewhere between a soft agitated oo oo and an outraged shriek over animal rights.

The first 100 or so pages reminded me of a former co-worker. He had long, loud personal telephone calls in a shared workspace. They were awkward and convoluted because he avoided personal pronouns as well as names using “this person” and “that person.” When he later made his big reveal, it didn’t get much reaction. Just polite comments abo
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a surprisingly interesting read.

There's plenty of food for thought, right from the announcement that Rosemary had her "Own personal Schrodinger's Cat," to her insistence that memories cannot be trusted. Even so, these minor reveals are not the important pieces that frame this narrative structure. They may be emotional and harrowing, but the novel is much more than just this.

It's really about our place in the universe and how "Others" fit within it, as well.

I was confused from the very star
Diane Yannick
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it
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 ☔
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb

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
I found the Fowler's book compelling and I'm glad that I knew very little about it before I began reading. The story became a discovery....I felt like I was along for a very emotional ride. It is a story of a dysfunctional family, of discovery of self, of the role of memory and recovery of childhood memory in adulthood, of loss, all through the eyes of daughter Rosemary. There is humor, pathos, anger, hurt, disappointment, love and hate, all the emotions you would expect to find between human be ...more
May 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
~✡~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
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
"In everyone's life, there are people who stay and people who go and people who are taken against their will."

Who do you remember the most? I asked myself. Those who make part of my primary circle of existence and have enriched my being with their presence? Or those who came and then departed for good, leaving an indelible mark on my life, as it looks today? Or those who, by all means that I could fathom, were supposed to be a part of my life but were disengaged from me with a menacing strik
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
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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Karen Joy Fowler is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels and three short story collections. Her 2004 novel, The Jane Austen Book Club, spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, won the Commonwealth m ...more

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