The New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club introduces a middle-class American family that is ordinary in every way but one in this novel that won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she explains. “I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion...she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister.” As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.
In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler weaves her most accomplished work to date—a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.
“A gripping, big-hearted book...through the tender voice of her protagonist, Fowler has a lot to say about family, memory, language, science, and indeed the question of what constitutes a human being.”—Khaled Hosseini
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The Cookes seem like the all-American family: Mom, Dad, sisters Rosemary and Fern, and brother Lowell. But Fern disappears, Lowell runs away, and Rosemary is left to narrate the tale of their atypical family. It’s worth avoiding spoilers to let the story unspool and cleverly reveal what makes this clan so different—and what well-intentioned decisions led to shattering consequences. But this isn’t a tragedy: Fowler revels in sly humor and madcap plot twists involving the FBI, experimental psychology, and a bizarre ventriloquist’s dummy. The novel’s wit and incandescent prose breathe life into flawed but intensely lovable characters, providing a soulful and smartly crafted meditation on the nature of family.
It's worth the trouble to avoid spoilers, including the ones on the back cover, for Fowler's marvelous new novel; let her introduce the troubled Cooke family before she springs the jaw-dropping surprise at the heart of the story. Youngest daughter Rosemary is a college student acting on dangerous impulses; her first connection with wild-child Harlow lands the two in jail. Rosemary and the FBI are both on the lookout for her brother Lowell, who ran away after their sister Fern vanished. Rosemary won't say right away what it was that left their mother in a crippling depression and their psychology professor father a bitter drunk, but she has good reasons for keeping quiet; what happens to Fern is completely shattering, reshaping the life of every member of the family. In the end, when Rosemary's mother tells her, "I wanted you to have an extraordinary life," it feels like a fairy-tale curse. But Rosemary's experience isn't only heartbreak; it's a fascinating basis for insight into memory, the mind, and human development. Even in her most broken moments, Rosemary knows she knows things that no one else can know about what it means to be a sister, and a human being. Fowler's (The Jane Austen Book Club) great accomplishment is not just that she takes the standard story of a family and makes it larger, but that the new space she's created demands exploration.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Do not look up the premise of this book before you read it. You want to be surprised. The language is captivating, heartbreaking and hilarious. and the way the story contracts and expands as the author tells it came at me like nothing I’ve ever read. At first the protagonist might seem shallow but she’s an undergrad in the 90s. We all seemed shallow. The story of her life and the lives around her is ocean deep and the relationships she has with the inhabitants of the story as well as herself go deep, then surface as if for breath and barrel down again. So powerful. Hint: look up words, ideas and phrases you don’t know because they often come back like very meaningful lost children.
I read a lot. I’ve been moved by many books. This was more than a book- it was a beautiful experience. Every word sings to you. The characters are realistic and poignant and the way they are written implants themselves into you, you quickly become invested in them. I had sadness that the story had to end at all. Read it. Read it, read it.
Not at all what you think
This is a book in a class by itself. So beyond the norm of story telling. Heart wrenching yet so rewarding it gives the reader much to ponder. Wow. Just, wow.