We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,
by Karen Joy Fowler
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (February 25, 2014)
Reading Sara Review: This is one of those books that I can’t believe it took me so long to read. I loved it. I am trying to figure out a way to write this review without revealing too much – because my favorite part of the book was the twist about 2/3rds of the way in (it’s not a Gone Girl twist, it is something that will make you smile). Fowler’s writing immediately captured me, making me pause mid-reading to absorb her words. It is authors like this that make me fear writing myself, because her prose instills so much in the reader, how could I ever write that well? Fowler is the author of the Jane Austen Book Club, which I certainly enjoyed reading as a loyal reader of most things Austen-related. However, this writing was leaps and bounds from her previous books that I have read.
It was lines like these that spoke deeply to me:
“…I’d left Dexter Poindexter, my terry-cloth penguin (threadbare, ravaged by love – as who amongst us is not) in a gas station…”
“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 any more 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.”
“The sunset you see is always better than the one you don’t. More stars are always better than less.”
“Apparently, all you needed to be considered normal was no evidence to the contrary.”
Aside from the surprises in the story, which I will not spoil for you, this book is about a family, and how the family grew apart and attempts to come back. It is about siblings, their loyalty and devotion – even when it seems like they are worlds apart. Rosemary Cooke is a wonderful character, who despite being mostly friendless and hiding many secrets, is relatable. She did not choose the life that she ended up in, but it shaped her in ways that made her humane and interesting.
The story jumps around a little bit, which I have heard other readers complain about. I liked the mystery of it and the confusion of what happened and the mystery of what happens next, since we come to Rosemary’s story in the middle of it.
As usual, this book is probably not for everyone –but I loved it, and think it is worth the praise that it has received. Thank you, Lisa, for the high recommendation!