Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘We are All Completely Beside Ourselves’

WeAreAllCompletelyKaren Joy Fowler’s novel ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ focuses on a family that has been ripped apart by the loss of a daughter and a sister.

Rosemary was only five years old when Fern disappeared from her life. Years later, her brother leaves home without a backward glance. From a family of five, they are suddenly just three. The family home, once thriving and full of life, is now dominated by the things that they don’t talk about.

Even though she’s never mentioned, Fern has affected every moment of Rosemary’s life, past and present. They grew up together, experienced everything together and even had their own language. Many years later at college, Rosemary is doing everything she can to fade into the background. But sooner or later, she has to face the truth of what really happened to Fern.

To say any more about the plot would ruin it for future readers, but there’s a massive plot twist about half way through that I didn’t see coming – probably because I’d managed to avoid reading any revealing reviews beforehand!

That said, this was a really great read. It raised some really interesting questions around scientific research and morality that I was still thinking about a long time after I turned the last page.

Rosemary’s sister was taken away from her when she was a just a child, and a lot of the issues she struggles to deal with later in life are caused by the fact that she was too young to fully understand what was happening around her. As an adult, she has to re-examine everything that she thinks she knows and try to see things from a new perspective.

Guilt and responsibility are constant themes, and the novel really drives home how personal choices made by parents can have long lasting and devastating effects on their children and the people around them.

It’s described as a comic novel, and in some places it’s brilliantly witty and self-deprecating. However, in others it’s incredibly touching, moving and sad.

It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, and in my opinion, it’s well worth the hype.


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