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Search tags: We-Are-All-Completely-Beside-Ourselves
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review 2017-05-10 16:10
Book 28/100: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
I never knew when I picked this book up that the identity of Fern was supposed to be a "twist" -- the review I read that piqued my interest gave it away, and that's what made me want to read the book. Ironically, I probably would not have picked it up had I not known the "twist" beforehand!

But I am glad that I did pick it up. I hadn't realized that this was written by the same person who wrote The Jane Austen Book Club, which I found to be a bit too cutesy and not particularly enjoyable, and at first knowing that put me off a bit. However, I found this book to be much more substantial and introspective, and demonstrative of Fowler's growth as a writer in tone and themes.

This book was less about the experience of living with Fern than I expected, and more about the way her short time with the Cooke family impacted them for decades even after she disappeared. The narrator was only five when Fern disappeared from her family, so she perhaps had the most difficulty truly making sense of what had happened and why. Her social interactions remained awkward and she felt isolated throughout most of her life, always compensating for unusual formative years and the impact Fern had on them. Unable to see the "big picture," she also blamed herself for Fern's disappearance, which was reinforced by her brother's interpretation of events.

Fern, brother Lowell, Rosemary (the narrator), and her friend Harlow are incredibly vivid characters -- the rest of the characters less so, to the extent that I sometimes had trouble keeping track of them or remembering who was who. The non-linear storytelling style can also take some getting used to, and because the book is very reflective in nature, there is a lot that is conveyed in summary and memory rather than in direct action. The narrative style seemed appropriate to the storyteller and the story she was attempting to convey, and the book's powerful themes about family, the importance of formative experiences, the response to grief, the isolation of an unconventional childhood, activism and animal rights more than made up for its minor weaknesses. It's the type of book that will make you want to read more about the subject matter, which always counts as a win for me even if it places further strain on my massive TBR list. Ever-expanding intellectual curiosity is fun, if a bit overwhelming. :)
 
 
 
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review 2016-11-27 00:00
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler I'm not sure what to think of this book... It was okay. It irritated the shit out of me with it's big pretentious words that even my kindle dictionary couldn't help! The narrative style reminds me of someone I know who likes being "mysterious" and only manages to be irritating... she takes forever to make a point or tell a story! The story was super interesting, so kudos for that. It could have been much better though...
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review 2016-05-09 17:30
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
Language does this to our memories--simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.


We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the perfect book for a book club. It raises question about our society, how we see animals and how we treat them, family, and ethics. It's prefect for discussion. It's clever and insightful. Funny at times, yes. A good read.

But it made me feel absolutely nothing.

Which most likely is due to my own views on certain themes in this story. All it did was remind me of an assignment my sister once had where they had to write a paper about whether a monkey should have human rights or not. When she first told me about it I laughed out loud. For a while, I have to admit. It sounded ridiculous. Not that we should treat animals with kindness, but I kept thinking that we have animal rights (not all over the world, but where I live). And yes, I believe there should be a distinct line drawn between human rights and animal rights. Which, more or less is what this book resolves around. What differs us humans from animal? How great are the differences?

It's also about family. About Rosemary, Fern, and Lowell. This part was easier to relate to, if you eliminated the big surprise element. If we're focusing solely on the family aspect, it's a story one can relate to. We're shown several characters who could use therapy (for a long time). Rosemary and Lowell the most, but also Rosemary's friend Harlow. They are interesting characters but Rosemary's narrative brings the story down.

The narrative is meant to show off Rosemary's unstable mind, but some of the choices of structure and style were constant frustrations while reading. The writing gets choppy and pretentious for a great part of the story, causing me to almost not finish this book. As said, the narrative is meant to show off the unstable mind of Rosemary, but it doesn't quite come across the way it was intended, unfortunately.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is, for all purposes and intents, an interesting story that raises certain questions that should (and are) discussed today. At the same time, while doing this it loses some of its ability to connect the reader to the characters, making it seem more like a chore to read than reading for the interest of the characters and story.

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review 2015-09-22 19:25
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; terribly good and terribly sad
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

When I started reading this book about a family member, Fern, who has evidently gone missing or died, I really liked how it didn’t start with how she had disappeared or when. The narrator, Rosemary, is Fern’s sister and she begins the story half-way through (running us through events that happen after Fern’s disappearance). I thought this was a really smart approach; a very unique and powerful way of letting us learn about her family and investing in them, before the inevitable bombshell. As it turns out, it’s actually a necessary plot device or else the story wouldn’t have worked so well (it would be a big spoiler to say why…).

 

I’ve seen the book everywhere of course (who hasn’t?) but I was very happy not to have known anything about it. I understand why it’s been so successful. It’s very well written. Fowler has a beautiful way with words and descriptions, particular concerning the relationship between Rosemary and Fern. It’s a very sad book about how a family falls apart after a devastating experience, but it’s also very different to other books in this genre (for reasons that become apparent a third of the way through). The blurb says that the book really makes the reader think about what it means to be “human” and it’s true. It also made me think about how it’s sometimes the small things we do and importantly, our reactions to them, that are sometimes the things that can have the biggest ramifications. It also touches on important issues concerning science and terrorism.

 

I think it’s a little long, but incredibly good and terribly sad. Well worth a read.

Source: ellenallen.co/2015/09/22/we-are-all-completely-beside-ourselves-terribly-good-and-terribly-sad
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review 2015-07-03 00:00
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler This book left me with mixed feelings. I did guess the 'reveal' about twenty pages before it was divulged, but that's probably because I've read some of the non fiction books on the subject. I don't want to add more to spoil this for anyone else. But I found the rationale for writing the story hard to find. What message was the author trying to give? I also wasn't that convinced by the main character. So perhaps an interesting experiment, but I was left wanting something more.
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