Books / Review

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“My sister, Fern. In the whole wide world, my only red poker chip”

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. A very thought provoking novel with the strong themes of family and of the Nature vs Nurture argument. I will try not to spoil it but of course as Fowler herself states: “One of the few studies Rosemary doesn’t quote says that spoilers actually enhance reading.”

Rosemary starts her story in the middle. It opens in 1996 with her getting arrested with a wild looking girl called Harlow. In Harlow, Rosemary sees her sister, lost to her when Rosie was five. Where Rosie is calm and quiet (on the outside at least) Harlow speaks her mind and pushes Rosie to be more herself.  A substitute sister almost, Rosie finds herself doing things she wouldn’t normally do. After being arrested, she spends the holidays with her parents where her mother gave Rosemary her  two scientific journals that Rosemary can’t bring herself to read.

Fowler’s decision to introduce the idea of Fern before Fern herself was  very clever one. It was a twist I was definitely not expecting but I am glad she left it until then to reveal the truth about Fern, although there were a few hints toward it earlier in the novel.  What I liked about this book was how it portrayed a very dysfunctional family in a functional way, but of course to Rosemary and her siblings it is of course a normal situation.

There were moments while reading this book that I had a perpetual lump in my throat. Although its not a punch to the stomach sadness like The Book Thief, it is more the way Rosemary tells her story, racked with guilt that makes it sad.

A definite recommend. I suggest you all go out and buy this book or borrow it from the library because it is a very good book, and I really enjoyed reading it.


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