I’m still suffering a massive book hangover after reading Karen Joy Fowler‘s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which is currently longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has won the Pen Faulkner Award and the California Book Award.
Synopsis quoted from Serpent’s Tail¹:
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.
Karen Joy Fowler’s novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is set in the contemporary United States, but the book’s focus isn’t on the setting.
Rosie, our main character, is a young woman telling the story of her sister’s disappearance. When Fern vanished, both Rosie and Fern were still small children. Since then, Rosie feels as if half of herself is missing. She is insecure and has a hard time making friends. At college, Rosie meets Harlow, a girl very different from herself. Harlow is outgoing, takes risks, doesn’t think about her actions. Rosie feels drawn to Harlow even though the latter, in my eyes, isn’t a very likeable character. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves lives from characterization and the relationships between characters. Most of the time this works out brilliantly, but Rosie’s & Harlow’s “friendship” just doesn’t work that well for me. I can’t understand why anyone wants to be friends with someone like Harlow.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was quite the surprise. I had no idea what it really was about. So if you don’t know either, you are in for a treat. While the story is very unusual, Ms Fowler still manages to embed it into a perfectly normal environment. I am glad that the novel doesn’t get kitschy at any point because I sometimes feared it would. If you’d like to pick up a gripping novel that stays with you for a long time after reading, I’d recommend We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.