We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Karen Joy Fowler
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014
The Million Copy Best-Seller
Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves, round about page 77, what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.
Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble. So now she’s telling her story: full of hilarious asides and brilliantly spiky lines, it’s a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.
It’s funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you’re telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern – it’s pretty hard to resist – don’t worry. One of the few studies Rosemary doesn’t quote says that spoilers actually enhance reading.
A novel so readably juicy and surreptitiously smart, it deserves all the attention it can get ... [Its] fresh diction and madcap plot bend the tone toward comedy, but it never mislays its solemn raison d'etre. Monkeyshines aside, this is a story of every family in which loss engraves relationships, truth is a soulful stalker and coming-of-age means facing down the mirror, recognizing the shape-shifting notion of self -- Barbara Kingsolver * New York Times Book Review * We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but. This novel is deliciously jaunty in tone and disturbing in material. Karen Joy Fowler tells the story of how one animal-the animal of man-can simultaneously destroy and expand our notion of what is possible -- Alice Sebold No contemporary writer creates characters more appealing, or examines them with greater acuity and forgiveness, than she does -- Michael Chabon Fowler has given us the gift of a splendid novel. Not only is the story fascinating, moving, and beautifully written, but also it ripples with humor; its quirky characters include a puppet named Madame Defarge and a Seinfeldian assortment of apartment dwellers. Layered with a huge moral compass and enormous humanity, this portrait of a family one-fifth simian will, nevertheless, touch and delight every human * Boston Globe * Hinges upon Rosemary's sharp voice, which at its best includes funny, self-aware asides such as an early reference to a character at a holiday dinner where she flippantly advises the reader, "Don't get attached to him; he's not really part of this story * LA Times * We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is that rare thing, a comic novel that wrestles seriously with serious moral questions ... Fowler knows how to make her story funny and sad and disturbing and revelatory by erecting a space in which her reader is allowed to feel all of that for herself * Salon * So thought provoking on the topic of animal rights that it could alter your future decisions as a consumer. I don't want to say much about the plot of the book ... except to compare it to Ann Patchett's State of Wonder in terms of weaving a larger story of radical, scientific experimentation into a very personal woman's narrative * MSN * Rosemary's voice is achingly memorable, and Fowler's intelligent discourse on science vs. compassion reshapes the traditional family novel into something more universally relevant... This brave, bold, shattering novel reminds us what it means to be human, in the best and worst sense * Miami Herald * Halfway through Karen Joy Fowler's enthralling novel "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves," I was sort of beside myself, too, with that electric thrill of discovering a great book. I wanted to stay up all night to finish it, but I also wanted to stop and call all my book-loving friends immediately and blurt, "You have to read this book!" * Cleveland Plain Dealer * [A]n unsettling, emotionally complex story that plumbs the mystery of our strange relationship with the animal kingdom - relatives included -- Ron Charles * Washington Post * Karen Joy Fowler has written the book she's always had in her to write. With all the quiet strangeness of her amazing Sarah Canary, and all the breezy wit and skill of her beloved Jane Austen Book Club, and a new, urgent gravity, she has told the story of an American family. An unusual family-but aren't all families unusual? A very American, an only-in-America family-and yet an everywhere family, whose children, parents, siblings, love one another very much, and damage one another badly. Does the love survive the damage? Will human beings survive the damage they do to the world they love so much? This is a strong, deep, sweet novel -- Ursula K Le Guin It's been years since I've felt so passionate about a book. When I finished at 3 a.m., I wept, then I woke up the next morning, reread the ending, and cried all over again -- Ruth Ozecki A profound, moving and enchanting look at a very complex family. -- Anna Carey * Irish Times * An astonishing achievement. Giant-stepping back and forth through the life of its put-upon narrator, Rosemary Cooke, the youngest of three siblings, the reader is treated to a wild ride of tragic hilarity, but one which only ever serves to heighten its beautiful, heartbreaking core... a genuinely stunning novel - certainly one of the year's finest. -- Billy O'Callaghan * Irish Examiner * With all the pace of a thriller and the emotional pull of a romantic novel, this masterful work is intelligently written and will reel you in, hook, line and sinker. * The Lady * My favourite book this year. -- Justine Carbery * Irish Independent * Explosive, provocative, and thoughtful, but still very funny. I'm so glad to have discovered the author. -- Philippa Gregory * Mail on Sunday * Karen Joy Fowler is a very fine novelist indeed. -- Alan Murrin * TLS * The strength of Fowler's writing is its piercing evocation of the dynamics of family ... probing the intricacies of love and loss with brave humour -- Henry Hitchings * Financial Times * Karen Joy Fowler's sixth novel examines what it means to be human, nonhuman and something in between. Using both reason and sentiment, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves holds a mirror up to reflect what we're really made of, both in what we do to each other and to other animals ... But this is no simplistic tub-thumping polemic: Fowler acknowledges the advances made and the treatments found - all thanks to primate research - for Alzheimer's, autism, Parkinson's. As Rosemary deadpans at the end: "Nobody's arguing these issues are easy." -- Elena Seymenliyska * Telegraph * The most impressively original book I've read this year. -- Liz Nugent * Irish Times * An original and spontaneous take on family that grabs you and doesn't let you go. -- Judy Blume * Elle * One of the best novels I've read ever. It just destroyed me ... she's writing at the absolute top of her game -- Romola Garai
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