A book review: Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
My friend, bookshop Jo, tells me that this is a Marmite book (love it or hate it), which came as a complete surprise to me because I can’t see how anyone could not totally love this tale. Readers will tell you that their problem occurred on p77 when a simply jaw dropping revelation is made. It would seem that some of you stopped reading at this point, but not me. After the simply devastating discovery I was compelled to finish this book at breakneck-speed.
I chose this novel on a frustrating day when Amazon had messaged me to say that my payment details were out of date. Convinced that this was not the case I ordered a book to prove them wrong and this is what I chose. I found that sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. I can’t resist a title that is too long (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Staggering Work of Heart Breaking Genius, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Dark) and yellow is a rare but wonderful colour for a book.
Rosemary lives with a heavy sorrow from her past.
At the age of five, she returns from a trip to her grandparents and finds that her sister Fern is gone. No one talks about why and Rosemary is much too young to understand or remember the events of that time. All we know is that her mother had a breakdown, her father became an alcoholic and one day, her brother simply walked out taking with him the last obvious hope Rosemary had of understanding her traumatic past. In college years Rosemary must do the painful work of piecing together the events that left her family in ruins.
This is a totally engaging get-lost-in-the-story book, but along the way will also find a strong moral tale told with great compassion. Often witty, always intelligent, there is no heaviness in the handling of important philosophical questions about what it means to be human. Not everyone wants to read a novel that clearly needs to make a point, however, Karen Joy Fowler has managed to achieve here a crowning glory of the contemporary novel, and that is the ability to help us enjoy a good story and think through some difficult issues, all at the same time.
Karen Joy Fowler is the author of the very popular, The Jane Austen Book Club. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves is the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award and was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.