Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

I heard of this book through the TV Book Club on Facebook, and quickly judging it by its cover, without reading the description, was expecting some sort of romance/family saga, but what the book is actually about is quite a challenging read, as the story starts in the middle: Rose is a 22 year old college student at UC Davis, in her fifth year, with no firm thoughts of what to major in, however, she hides from her fellow students facts about her family. she doesn’t tell them she has an older brother, Lovell, or an older sister, Fern. Both siblings appear to be missing from the family and as you progress through the book you learn that Rose’s mother had a breakdown when she was five years old, she was sent to live with one set of grandparents for a while until she orchestrated an escape. When found, her father returned for her and she was taken to a new home, where her parents and brother had moved to, but there was no Fern. During the descriptive narrative you pick up that Rose’s formative memories are sketchy on a lot of things around the time Fern is lost and her mother is ill, however this point definitely established the before and after of the family. After, Lovell is unhappy and constantly running away and Fern is no longer there and it is Fern that kept me reading on, as I really needed to know what happened to her.

This book is funny and endearing in parts but is not an easy read, I found the narrative difficult to get into but once I had read a few chapters and acclimated the story did hook me. There is much angst and heartbreak in this story, and a lot of information about psychological experiments and protocol, however, weeding my way through all this information, what kept me reading was Rose’s quest to find out what happened to Fern and then her quest to find her.

A difficult and rewarding read, definitely one which touched my heart, this is definitely a book to spark much discussion.

Links to Book:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Goodreads

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

  1. She’s in her fifth year? And still doesn’t know what to major in? Wow, parents are awfully patient, these days! I wonder how much they’re shelling out for her to remain a student forever (possibly the author doesn’t deal with that).

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    • Actually this character is the same age as me, she was 22 in 1996. In fairness her parents are far from thrilled and her dad describes her education as wide, just not deep…by the end of the book she finds her direction though.

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