Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Title: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Author: Karen Joy Fowler

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Publishing date: 2014

Pages: 308

Price: £6.69

ISBN: 9781846689666


Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.
Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.
And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.


This is a really weird book – there, I said it.

I’ve never studying psychology so I found it to be quite confusing at times – I feel like if I had studied it at some point in my education I would’ve had a bit of a better understanding of it. Although there were some pretty good explanations of some things she was talking about but all the explanations made it very slow to read. It wasn’t until about halfway through that it got a bit easier to read which is why it took me nearly 2 weeks to read it.

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but I really didn’t click about Fern. Sure there were a few things that happened that I thought were a bit weird but I was like “Oh she’s a baby, babies do weird shit sometimes”. It wasn’t until Rosemary literally told me about Fern did I think “oh ok that makes more sense…”

How the story is told is quite confusing too… The way the narrative goes back and forth with how things were in Rosemary’s childhood to her experiences at College to her brother returning. It can be quite hard to keep up with what was happening and what time. Also, Rosemary openly admits that the way she’s telling some of the story isn’t how it happened in real life. For example, when Rosemary and her brother are up all night talking she tells us afterwards that she didn’t tell the reader everything that happened. You could look at this in 2 different ways – Rosemary could think that the details she missed out are unimportant to the narrative or she could be lying to the reader because she doesn’t want the reader to think of her brother in a negative way.

I really liked the character development of Rosemary. It was obvious that her childhood has affected her greatly as she tries to begin a new life at college and being able to be with her on her new journey is interesting. A character with such a confusing backstory makes for a very confusing narrative but one that is interesting nonetheless.

Before I read this book I hadn’t heard a lot about it, I know a couple of my friends had read it but they didn’t urge me to read it so I went into it with a cautious frame of mind. I’m not entirely sure if this would be the first book I would recommend to people but if you’re interested in psychology then I’d definitely point you in the direction of this book.

My Review: 3.4/5

Let me know what you thought about this book in the comments!


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