We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

beside ourselvesI started reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves a little before eight o’clock Saturday night.  (Don’t judge me.  I’ve been on vacation so long one night is as good as another.)

While not a page turner by any means, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves drew me in at a steady pace until I was completely absorbed in the story.

Should I keep reading or go on to bed?  It’s only ten o’clock–keep reading.

The narrator tells us she’s starting her story in the middle, just after she lost her sister Fern.  As far as the narrator is concerned, she was five-years-old at the time, Fern just disappeared.  One day, the narrator was sent to stay with her grandparents. When she returned home, Fern was gone.

It’s not until page 76 that she tells us Fern was a chimpanzee.

Rosemary Cooke tells her family’s story in fragments, out of order, as she sorts through her memory.  Her father was a well-know academic, a professor of psychology who participated in one of many studies done in the 1960’s and 1970’s that involved raising baby chimpanzees alongside human children to see just what were the differences between the two species.

Rosemary and Fern were raised as equals as much as possible.  Each truly looked on the other as a sister.

How this affected Rosemary, her older brother, her parents and Fern made for a story that keep me reading well into the night.

I finished just after midnight Sunday morning.

I never thought I would love a book by the author of the Jane Austen Book Club, but I did.

4 thoughts on “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

  1. You’ve convinced me. It sounds a little strange – a chimpanzee for a sister? – but that kind of thing always fascinates me. I wanted a monkey for the longest time while growing up… ended up with a miniature poodle.

    The audio version of The Jane Austen Book Club was enjoyable enough, but I remember thinking it wouldn’t have worked for me in print.

    1. I agree that the narrative structure certainly helps make the book a page turner. But I think this material could easily be a page turner if told in a straightforward, linear fashion. I really wasnt’ drawn in by the “thriller” aspects of the book. It wasn’t a page-turner for me at all. It was just a good book that I enjoyed reading so much I really forgot about how late it was getting.

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