We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 8:36 am

Reserve now!

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Karen Joy Fowler


reserve now!

Jen D


General fiction

animals, families

In brief


How accurate are our memories? This remarkable novel delves deep into that and more as its pages unfold.

Where is the intersection of truth and memory? What do we hide in the dark recesses of our minds to protect ourselves from our past?

Meet Rosemary Cooke, a lost and lonely 22-year-old who has just been arrested for throwing milk in her college cafeteria. She'll be the first to admit that her story starts in the middle, and it's quite obvious she's avoiding something. At first, all we know is that her sister, Fern, disappeared when she was five years-old and that the two were inseparable. Because Rosemary was so young at the time of Fern's disappearance, all she can do is cobble together the fragmented memories she has left of Fern. This sets the nonlinear tone of this articulately written story of family, love, loss, honesty, bravery and jealousy.

Alternating between past recollections and present actions, between dreams, memories and reality, Fowler's gorgeous prose flows off the page and brings the Cooke family's story to life. One of my favorite passages addresses this: "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 mean to capture." The story is a compelling, yet unpredictable, look at family relationships and all that they entail. I couldn't put it down and it stayed with me long after I was finished.