FABClub (Female Authors Book Club) discussion

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
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Group Reads > We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves group discussion (May '15)

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Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
This one made so many different prize lists! Who has read it yet?


Nicole I just finished the audiobook version of this and I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would! It definitely touched on issues that I wasn't expecting-- probably because I tried to avoid reading any reviews or summaries until I'd finished. I'm interested to hear what others thought.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Yes, I read this without any idea of what it was about, and I'm so glad I did! Too many reviews give away a key spoiler. Let's be super careful to use spoiler tags here in our discussion!


Taylor (seffietay) My 'in-person' book club read this a few months ago and we all liked it. Some knew the spoiler ahead of time and some didn't, it seemed to take a lot of people by surprise and change the whole tone of the novel!

(view spoiler)


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Yes! I didn't quite get it, but I think it colored my thinking about it.


Nicole Yeah, I agree that I was somewhat spoiled because of the covers I had seen. I really don't understand why they did that. (view spoiler) Still, I had no idea what the rest of the book was about, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I really liked Rosemary as well.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
I really enjoyed Ali's review of this: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

She raises the point of how our memories influence our concepts of reality - which links to a repeated sense I had while reading this that I was reading an actual autobiography.


message 8: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments I've been hesitant to chime in here because I don't know how to use the View Spoiler tool, and I have a hard time finding anything useful to say about the novel that ignores Fern's big secret. I knew about that from the start from a blurb on the back cover.

I will say that I found the book compelling and that it took me on a highly emotional journey. Some of this has to do with the fact that I was reminded by one of the characters of my multiply disabled deaf son (now an adult), and that set off the waterworks pretty often. I think the book is well written for the most part, and I gave it four stars. For me, the characters really came to life; they were complex and convincing.

However, I felt a bit manipulated by the final scene, as though the tears it produced were "jerked" from me instead of earned.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
First, how to use spoiler tool:
(this is summarized in the little link to the immediate upper right of the "comment" box, where it says "(some html is ok)")

Basically the key is to use the two bracket symbols that appear on most computer keyboards above the comma and the period (what you get when you type shift . or shift , - these might be better known to some as "lesser than" and "greater than" symbols. I have to use words because if I type the actual symbol it will disappear and say "view spoiler" instead. But I'm talking about < and > .

So this is what you type: "lesser than symbol/open bracket symbol"spoiler"greater than/close bracket symbol" - so that's one symbol, followed by the word "spoiler", followed by one symbol. Then you type whatever content you want hidden. When you're done you will type "lesser than"/spoiler"greater than" so this is almost exactly the same as what you do at the beginning, except you put / right before spoiler. (I think of this as meaning "end spoiler.") This sounds horrendously complex to explain, but once you do it just once the logic of it suddenly becomes obvious. Sorry to take so many words to explain it, but try it, because you will feel powerful once you master it!

This is what it will look like (just take out the *'s which I'm putting in as filler so you can see the actual typing).
*<*spoiler*>*all the secrets that you want to not give away to the unwary viewer*<*/spoiler*>*


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Did you feel cheated that the back cover blurb gave it away? I had to read it twice myself, once from a state of absolute innocence and then again from better informed eyes.

I found it so compelling, the characters so well drawn, that I repeatedly needed to remind myself that I was reading fiction.

The final scene, I'm a little misty here, do you mean (view spoiler)


Nicole I agree, it seemed really realistic. I think the way all of the other experiments were talked about made it seem that way. I don't even know if they really happened or not, but this book made me want to look into them and learn more. I wasn't expecting the book to end the way it did. I do think it wrapped up too nicely and happily, but the rest of the book was so emotional that it seemed ok.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
It was so, so, so sad, in so many different ways! A slightly-fairy-tale happy ending was exactly what I wanted!


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Kat wrote: "I've been hesitant to chime in here because I don't know how to use the View Spoiler tool, and I have a hard time finding anything useful to say about the novel that ignores Fern's big secret...."

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I also think that, now that we're in the last third of the month, that we should feel free to have a worry-free-no-holds-barred discussion.

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So from here on out - readers beware - all spoilers are allowed!


message 14: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments Oops, somehow missed the notification of the next post after mine and fell off the thread for awhile. Thanks for the explanation about spoilers, Alexa. Next time I'll know.

But I have to say I did NOT view this novel as having a happy ending. It did mitigate the horrible bleakness that we seemed to be heading toward, but I cried torrents on Fern's behalf, almost couldn't bear it. That relationship between Rosemary and Fern may have been remembered--though Rosemary herself won't swear to it--but it was still completely BROKEN, for all time.

This one was very emotional for me, I'm afraid!

I liked the voice. It won me over in that first terrific chapter. But I almost changed my mind about it in chapter two, because it (the voice) seemed to be trying to hard to be funny or clever. But once chapter 3 started I never felt that way about the voice again.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
You're right, calling it happy was overstating it - more of a small attempt to fix some of the evil.

I want to bring up a slightly different view, without being disagreeable (I hope!). The relationship was of vital importance to Rosemary, that and her horrific guilt over what had happened to Fern are what drives her. Yet, for Fern, after all of the appalling abuse she has suffered, is her relationship with Rosemary truly what she most needs back? Rosemary was only deprived of Fern, and so that's what she wants back; Fern was deprived of her freedom, her "personhood," was tortured and abused in ways that would make our tabloid headlines blush, and therefore her relationship with Rosemary is of slight importance to her, in the scheme of things.

Yet the loss of that relationship is what allowed all the subsequent torture to take place - so perhaps symbolically that is what is most important?


message 16: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments Alexa wrote: " Yet, for Fern, after all of the appalling abuse she has suffered, is her relationship with Rosemary truly what she most needs back?"

This is no doubt true on some level. But I do think there's a particular horror in betraying someone who trusts you and is incapable of understanding the reasons the betrayal came about. When we try to imagine how these beings feel--the bewilderment and pain experienced--perhaps we are in fact revisiting forgotten childhood experiences, and projecting unremembered emotions on others.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Yes, and I think a lot of the horror for Fern comes from the fact that as a child she felt equally betrayed - yet as an adult she has to accept that she wasn't the true victim here - that she was also the betrayer. To have to look back as an adult and realize that you were actually even guiltier than you thought you were as a child - that's horror!


message 18: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments Alexa wrote: "Yes, and I think a lot of the horror for Fern comes from the fact that as a child she felt equally betrayed - yet as an adult she has to accept that she wasn't the true victim here - that she was a..."

We often say that children of that age aren't responsible for their actions and should jettison the guilt they felt as children. I think Rosemary takes a middle road here--she's intent on hanging onto some of the guilt, but also lets go of part of it. Did others have the same impression?


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
Ooops! I mixed up Fern and Rosemary - how telling is that?

I don't think Rosemary is guilty for her actions as a child - and I hope and think she has let go of that. That child's passing thoughts, words and actions were not responsible for the actions of the adults.

What I think she feels guilty for is the position of (unwanted) privilege she ended up in.


Nicole Maybe happy wasn't quite the word, but I did think the ending wrapped everything up a little too neatly. It just all seemed to convenient that fern would end up with them again (although I agree that it was not in the ideal way for fern). I agree with Alexa that Rosemary wasn't guilty of anything because she was a child. She didn't even fully comprehend what happened and why until she was much older. I think she did feel guilty though but by the end of the book I think she realized that the way hinges ended up was the best for everyone, even if they had a hard time getting there. Fern had a hard life but ended up in a safe place with both her chimpanzee and former human family with her.


message 21: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments Nicole wrote: "Maybe happy wasn't quite the word, but I did think the ending wrapped everything up a little too neatly. "

Hmm. I can see why you might have that opinion. I guess for me it was plausible, though not likely.


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
But it didn't just happen, Rosemary had to work really really hard to pull all of that together. She went looking for Fern and then basically made it her life's work to redeem herself and her family's misdeeds, in order to give Fern some tiny shot at happiness. Many of us wouldn't have put that much effort into insuring the happiness of our own siblings!


message 23: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments The more I think about Rosemary referring to Fern as her sister, without telling us she was a chimp, the more it seems a bit of a gimmick. It's possible that Rosemary thought of Fern as a sister when she was young, but surely from an adult vantage point that would no longer seem the appropriate label?


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
I sort of see your point, but on the other hand I can see how it would feel totally natural to Rosemary - she had been firmly imprinted on Fern as her sister. And learning how to be selective in her language was exactly her problem, wasn't it?


Nicole No, I realize the characters went through a lot to put it together. I just mean as the ending to the book it was the best possible scenario to wrap everything up neatly and get everyone back together and as happy as possible. I wasn't expecting that-- I figured Rosemary would never see Fern again. Normally I don't like neat, wrapped up endings in books where a sad ending would seem more plausible, but I didn't hate it in this book. Just because it was a convenient ending, doesn't mean I didn't like it.


Nicole Kat wrote: "The more I think about Rosemary referring to Fern as her sister, without telling us she was a chimp, the more it seems a bit of a gimmick. It's possible that Rosemary thought of Fern as a sister wh..."

I agree with this as well. I actually don't think Fern was really with her long enough to have that firmly imprinted on her. Especially since the rest of her family had stopped even mentioning Fern. Sure she should have memories of Fern, but to still consider her as a sister she has a close bond with was a little far fetched.


message 27: by Kat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kat | 145 comments About that ending: It didn't bother me that Rosemary ended up working with Fern, but I did feel manipulated by the final page, in which the story of their first meeting (since they were separated) is told out of order. Not just its placement but its import. I cried plenty, but felt the tears were only partly earned, and the rest of them were "jerked." It didn't spoil the book for me, though--I gave it four stars!

If I already said all that please forgive!


Alexa (AlexaNC) | 1256 comments Mod
I'm afraid I was just totally caught up in unthinking adoration of the book as a whole, and so I probably wasn't that good at turning a critical eye to it!


Linda | 2 comments Kat wrote: "The more I think about Rosemary referring to Fern as her sister, without telling us she was a chimp, the more it seems a bit of a gimmick. It's possible that Rosemary thought of Fern as a sister wh..."

I thought it was perfect that I had escaped without knowing the 'reveal'. I had the idea that the sister had a a disability, but I'm sure a lot of readers wouldn't have had the connection with the sister if they had known of the sister's species. I'm convinced that reading it as a vegan has a different slant to it - I'm not confronted by thinking of Fern as different-and-yet-the-same, and have previous knowledge of the science side. I think people reading it as an animal consumer might have a slightly different take on it but I found it compelling and haunting.


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